From homelessness to homeowner

Homeowner, featured

BY FRANK DROUZAS Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Three years ago veteran Ron Riley hit rock bottom; he was homelessness and dependent on alcohol and drugs. Today he’s sober, employed and a proud homeowner to boot.

Ron Riley, Homeowner

Ron Riley, Homeowner

“I lost my job and it came to a point where I knew I couldn’t pay my bills,” Riley explained. “I was still drinking and drugging so I had to make a decision to get some help. It came to the point where my landlord told me I had to get out.”

Evicted from the place he’d been renting, he sought help at the V.A., which directed him to the St. Vincent de Paul Center of Hope, where he’d call home for over a year and a half. There he came to the realization that it was time to go to church and kick his habits of drink and drugs.

“I somehow landed in church and I made decisions. I had to turn myself in and say, ‘I’m a drunk,’ and I went from there. I’ve been to the best treatments in town, and I went to a church and I got treated!” the 54 year old said with a laugh.

Riley also decided that it was necessary to secure work, so he signed on for an employment skills program at St. Vincent de Paul, where he’d learn to be an electrician.

“I wasn’t an A student or anything like that—we had them young kids in there, smart as a whip—but you know, I had good attendance and I did what I was supposed to do,” he remembered. “We had the final exam, and I passed it. I figured I’d take a half a day off, enjoy myself, get some air. And my instructor called the Center of Hope where I was staying at and told me I need to call him. I called him and he had me a job in Tampa! I thought you’d have to have an interview, but when I went out there all they wanted me to do was fill out a W2 form and all that!”

Knowing another key step was to get his credit in order, Riley, who had been having trouble getting financing, visited Neighborhood Home Solutions (NHS) 1600 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. St. S.

Ron Riley Homeowner, new home“I basically went over to get my credit started,” he explained. “To find out how to pay bills and do everything right because I’m trying to manage my life now being sober. It’s going to be the first time being sober in my life, so I need to learn how to do things properly. They showed me how to manage money, do a budget and how to clean up my credit.”

Riley also learned about the classes available at NHS for first-time homebuyers and went through the organization’s first-time home buyer program, took the Financial Fitness classes and Homebuyer Education workshop. He also received one-on-one housing counseling to develop his individual budget and action plan. Riley recommends NHS to all those interested in taking the steps to one day buying their own home.

“Before you do anything that you don’t know about, just go down there and let them guide you,” he stated. “They’ll answer any question; they’ll give you what they got or direct you where you need to go. That’s another thing I liked about them—they’re very friendly!”

For Riley, he is happy to count all the things he has achieved and acquired once he was able to turn things around: “A yard. Furniture in every room. The job is still here, still sober, still going to church. Happy. Peace of mind.”

June is National Home Ownership Month and NHS, a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization and community organization, provides a variety of services and classes for first-time homebuyers. To contact NHS, call (727) 821-6897 or visit nhsfl.org.

To reach Frank Drouzas, email fdrouzas@theweeklychallenger.com

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