January 26, 2024

Finding a Perfect Fit: Barbara’s Story

Barbara’s family in 1990.


It’s been more than 30 years since Barbara first moved into her ICCF home. During the summer, people walking by on the street will stop to compliment it. “I’ve noticed your beautiful house for years,” one person said. “I’d love to have it when you’re done!” Barbara just smiled. She’s already made plans to pass the home to one of her sons, continuing to care for him long after she’s gone.

Before Barbara purchased it in 1990, the house was unrecognizable. A fire had caused severe damage, destroying so much of the interior that “you could look straight through it, like a barn,” she recalled. ICCF Community Homes was in the process of painstakingly renovating the structure to provide an affordable homeownership opportunity for a local family.


Barbara’s family in 2005.


While mowing lawns in that neighborhood, Barbara’s eldest son saw the ICCF sign out front and told his mom about the opportunity. She decided to inquire. At the time, Barbara was a single mom to three boys, two of whom used wheelchairs. In their two-bedroom apartment, her sons shared the private rooms while she slept on the living room couch. Each time the rent increased, she scoured the area for a more affordable apartment where they could continue to stay together.

“Back when I needed a place, there was nothing barrier-free, or if you found something, it was only a small one-bedroom,” says Barbara. “There was certainly nothing for a family with two people who needed a barrier-free place.” Incredibly, the home that ICCF was remodeling turned out to be just what they needed. Not only was it soon to be ready for purchase, but it had been designed with accessible amenities like a barrier-free bedroom and a zero-step shower. The ICCF home was a perfect fit for Barbara’s budget and her family.



Through ICCF, Barbara began to prepare for homeownership. She balanced her roles as mother, primary caregiver, and employee of Grand Rapids Public Schools while taking classes on budgeting, saving money, home repair, and even gardening. She worked hard to prepare for the cost and opportunity of owning a home. When it was finally move-in ready, the house proved to be a wonderful environment for her family. Her sons played with the kids next door and often enjoyed a game of basketball in the driveway. She got to know her neighbors and became a trusted member of that community.

“The house has been a stabilizing force,” said Barbara. “I haven’t had to live in a sub-standard apartment, always looking around and trying to find somewhere better, switching the kids’ schools… everything’s remained the same.” Ten years ago, the family endured a tragic loss when Barbara’s son, Noah, passed away. She opened her home again for her youngest son, who uses a wheelchair, to return home.



For Barbara, it’s the memories from decades of life spent here that make her house feel like home. Today, Barbara lives in her ICCF house with her husband, Guillermo, and son, Isaiah. Many of the updates inside the home were completed by her oldest son, Matt. Barbara’s involved in fair and equitable housing through Together West Michigan, attends city commission meetings, and refers neighbors to ICCF. She also provides care for her son, including cooking meals that they share and providing transportation to appointments.

When Barbara does find time to rest at home, she often chooses to sit in the large-windowed living room. It’s her favorite, “especially in the wintertime when the sun comes through in the afternoon,” she said. “I’ve got all my plants in there. It’s just so nice.” Whatever comes next for Barbara’s family, they know that her home is a safe, stable place to be. The peaceful living room in the midst of a busy life paints a picture of the stability and security that Barbara has worked so hard to provide for her sons for over three decades.


This story first appeared in our Winter 2024 Blueprints newsletter. Click here to explore all stories from this edition. 

ICCF Community Homes

ICCF Community Homes is the oldest non-profit affordable housing provider in the state of Michigan. Active in the Grand Rapids area since 1974, ICCF serves over 2,000 households a year through its programs and services. Program offerings include Family Haven emergency shelter, over 700 units of affordable rental housing, newly constructed homes for purchase, homeownership education and financial counseling.

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