Testimonials

In the Sanibel/Captiva region, 80% of female-single-parent families fall below the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) threshold, a measure of financial stability. For Jessica Baker, that’s more than just a statistic. Jessica works as a server in a local restaurant. She enjoys the job, the people and the community. But when divorce left her coping as a single mom with two kids, the financial toll proved daunting. “I needed to find a new, affordable home,” said Jessica.

She’d been commuting to Sanibel from Cape Coral. Transportation costs and those hours on the road piled onto a stressful time. That’s when Community Housing & Resources stepped in. “I knew about CHR and how they help families,” she said. “I had an opportunity to apply, so I took the chance to see if we could qualify for help.”

They did. CHR offered Jessica and her family a rental site at Centre Place. “It’s a very family-oriented neighborhood. The rent is much more affordable, and it has the convenience of being five minutes from my job,” said Jessica.

She added that CHR’s staff was supportive throughout the process. “It was pretty easy and straightforward. They were very flexible with my schedule, and they were patient with me in moving in. They’ve been really generous and helpful,” she said. “When I saw how nice the apartment and location were, and that it could be a reality, it was definitely worthwhile,” said Jessica.

Jessica

Neil Erickson calls his experience with Community Housing & Resources “life-changing.” Now he and his family are doing their part to help CHR change the lives of others. “My three sons are in Boy Scouts, and I’m the assistant scoutmaster. We do a lot of volunteer work for CHR,” said Neil.

If you show up at a CHR event, like the recent Give Your Heart to CHR Gala, chances are you’ll see Neil, his sons and their fellow Scouts helping out. Visit a senior citizen at Casa Mariposa, and you might see a thoughtful card or handmade ornament from a Scout. Neil himself was part of the Thursday Volunteer Group, a small army of workers who did household repairs

for CHR residents. “It’s all about giving back to an organization and a community that means so much to us,” Neil explained.

Neil moved from northern Minnesota to Florida in 1994, eventually settling in Sanibel. Impressed with its friendly, small-town feel, he took a job with The Island Water Association, Inc. Soon his family outgrew their small rental, and they relocated to Cape Coral. That meant years of tough daily commutes, sometimes up to two hours.

No surprise, then, that they were eager to return to Sanibel. The family turned to CHR, which offers resources for affordable housing to full-time island workers who meet income guidelines. Through CHR’s Limited Equity Ownership option, they found a new home, and a new life, with the close-knit community at Centre Place. “It’s a wonderful island community. It’s friendly, safe, and feels like a small town. The school system is excellent. We love the bike paths and the nature preserves,” Neil said.

Neil & Family

People who encounter Dave Hoggatt will tell you he’s got a lot of heart. And a lot of hearts.

Dave carries handmade clay hearts bearing uplifting words, like “Rejoice” and “Joy” and “Love.” Give him a smile – or look as if you need something to smile about – and he’ll offer you a heart. It’s his way of honoring his late wife and giving something back to the island community that’s given so much to him, including CHR. “Sanibel and CHR are my home,” said Dave, who lives at Community Housing & Resources’ Casa Mariposa. The property on Periwinkle Way serves older adults.

Dave and his wife, Barbara, were running a pottery business in Indiana when they visited Sanibel Island in 1981. Before their vacation ended, they’d decided to set up shop here. They ran the business together for almost 30 years. Barbara came up with the pocket-sized hearts to use up excess clay. Dave took on the task after his wife passed away from cancer. He sees it as a way to honor Barbara while encouraging others.

Dave himself gains great encouragement from his faith. Finding an affordable home in his retirement is one example of how he believes that faith opens doors – in this case, through CHR and the community it provides. “Leaders and staff have brought a new sense of contact. We feel more connected. There are more activities to engage residents. That friendliness is important,” Dave explained.

Dave carries that friendliness into the Sanibel community. Don’t be surprised to see him out and about, handing out his clay hearts and sharing his gratitude for CHR.

Dave

“I’m a beach person. I always wanted to live in Florida. My dream was to walk out my back door and be at the beach.” It’s not that Wanda McKittrick hasn’t lived other dreams. As a preschool teacher for 35 years, she’d helped countless youngsters in South Dakota and Colorado get a great start in life. But Florida still beckoned. Four years ago, she landed in Sanibel and started teaching at the Children’s Education Center of the Island (CECI).

“I’ve always loved kids,” said Wanda, who started helping in a kindergarten classroom when she was a high-school senior. On any given day, she teaches about 40 young children at the Center.

While she loves being part of the Sanibel community, housing on a teacher’s salary is tough to come by. Then she heard about Community Housing & Resources. To her relief, CHR found her a place at its Riverview site that Wanda could afford. Then came Hurricane Ian, which devastated some CHR properties, including Wanda’s. Determined to make sure no one was left homeless, CHR staff quickly mobilized to help.

“They put me in contact with FISH to get a trailer to live in temporarily,” Wanda said. “Later, CHR got me into a duplex at Airport Way. That’s where I am now.” Having stable, affordable housing allowed Wanda to stay in Sanibel and keep shaping young lives for the future.

Not only is she still teaching, Wanda lives in a supportive and friendly community thanks to CHR. And that beach dream? It’s everything Wanda thought it would be.

Wanda

Florida weather makes it easy to commute on two wheels most of the time; Florida traffic, not so much. That’s one reason Ray Barr says Community Housing & Resources has saved his life. After Hurricane Ian destroyed his rental home on Sanibel Island, Ray found himself living in Fort Myers and riding his Vespa motor scooter to and from work — a dangerous gamble on busy roads. He longed to return to living on Sanibel. But as an hourly worker at a restaurant, he couldn’t afford the growing costs.

Ray fell in love with Sanibel after leaving Maine in 2004. “Sanibel just grew on me,” said Ray. He worked several jobs over the years, taking on roommates to keep his island rent affordable. When Ian struck, that wasn’t an option anymore. The storm wiped out many rental places, including Ray’s, and new properties weren’t affordable. “I wasn’t sure how to do it,” he said. “I had heard of CHR but didn’t think they’d have anything for me.”

Then Ray learned that CHR puts special emphasis on helping people who work in Sanibel and Captiva, and that affordable housing really could be a possibility for him. He was urged to apply. “They always want to help workers because workers make Sanibel go,” Ray said. “So I applied. It was the best thing I could have done.”

Not only did Ray qualify, he now lives happily at Mahogany Way near Wooster Lane. “It’s a great place, right near everything,” he said. His experience has turned Ray into a CHR cheerleader for life.

Ray

For Patty McIver, saying Hurricane Ian left people shell-shocked is no overstatement. That includes herself and her closest family. Patty, her parents and her brother each owned houses in the same neighborhood in Fort Myers, near the Causeway. Ian destroyed all three.

“It’s really hard, seeing what it did to them,” she said of her family. While sorting out the next steps for herself and her family, Patty had to move six times over the next 14 months. At one point, she lived in a camper where her home once stood.

Two things kept Patty going: her job as a Police Aide with the City of Sanibel, and the chance to find affordable housing through Community Housing & Resources. “When the opportunity came up for housing through CHR, I got really excited,” said Patty. “CHR — and my work — saved me from the depression people go through after a disaster like that. I can’t praise the program enough.”

Living in Sanibel at a CHR property has cut Patty’s commute to a few minutes of walking or biking. It’s also given her stability to focus on helping her parents rebuild, and being there for her brother, who has ALS and has moved into a new home in Fort Myers.

While Patty and her family continue to move forward, she looks back with gratitude. “The healing power of Sanibel and CHR will stay with me,” she said. “For me, it’s paradise.”

Patty

Mariea Peterson gives lots of reasons why Sanibel Island is a great place to raise her three children. But if it wasn’t for Community Housing & Resources, that opportunity would be out of reach. “CHR made it possible for me to live here. I’m all for CHR!” said Mariea, who works for Royal Shell in Captiva.

Peterson’s roots are in Colorado. She moved to Cape Coral for a few years. After her marriage ended, she relocated to Sanibel for work in 2020, children in tow. Mariea said the quality of life in Sanibel has made a huge difference for her family.

“It’s a great community, very family friendly. I don’t worry about my kids when they go out, ride their bikes and wander,” she said. “They love their Sanibel school, the best school in the district.” For Mariea, finding an affordable place to live for four people was a big challenge. Then she learned about CHR and decided to apply. Their application was accepted and the family happily moved into a CHR property that is “very close to the beach,” Mariea eagerly points out. “It was a very good, very positive experience,” she said. “CHR people are fantastic. They take really good care of the property and the people.”

When Hurricane Ian struck, the family’s unit suffered major damage. Mariea applauded workers for quickly repairing the facilities so she and her neighbors could return home. Her experience with CHR has made Mariea Peterson a strong advocate.

Mariea

When Melissa Mendez came to Sanibel Island for work, she discovered a dream she never knew she had. “This is such a close-knit community. Everyone knows each other. Everyone watches out for each other,” she said.

Living that dream, however, wasn’t easy. The Miami native had been working as a nail technician for 15 years when her marriage ended, leaving her a single mom with two children. Living in Cape Coral, Melissa soon landed a job with a rental property management firm in Sanibel. That left her with the almost impossible daily task of getting her kids to separate schools in Cape Coral and making it to work on the island by 8 a.m.

That’s when her employer suggested she approach Community Housing & Resources. “I believe things happen for a reason,” said Melissa. “It’s a blessing I got referred. The process was long, but easy to do. CHR kept updating me all through that process.”

Today, Melissa works at Sanibel Captiva Community Bank and since last August, she’s been a resident at a CHR property. “The CHR staff is amazing. Anything I need, any problem I might have, they’re always right on it, no matter how busy they are.” As a result, Melissa is quick to encourage others to reach out to CHR. “I tell them to hurry up and get on it!”

Melissa added, “Sanibel is a great community with a great school system. I was telling the father of my kids that I can’t picture them going back to their old schools. They love it here. It’s home.”

Melissa