CROWN POINT - Valerie Hunsdon is a success story in the eyes of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency.
The agency presented Hunsdon with a ceremonial key to her new home July 2, as part of a "Welcome Home" event highlighting National Home Ownership Month. Hunsdon, a single mother of one, recently received assistance from the USDA's home loan program and the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County.
Hunsdon said she was excited by the recognition and said the process to owning her home was a long and difficult one. Hunsdon's journey to where she is today began more than 18 years ago, when a car accident left her paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Five years ago, she and her husband divorced, leaving her to move with her then 1-year-old son into her parents' home.
"There weren't any apartments that we're wheelchair-accessible," Hunsdon said.
Then, when her niece was purchasing her own home, she told Hunsdon about the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County and how the program has grant money available to qualifying first-time home buyers. Working with USDA Rural Development, Hunsdon made up the difference to purchase her home by receiving a low-interest loan. All that was required was for her to take a homeowner education course.
"They want to make sure you can handle money and can budget and be able to afford your mortgage, power and things like that," explained Hunsdon, who said it took a year from the time she contacted the housing assistance program to the completion of the course.
During that time, Hunsdon also began working with Michelle and Eric LaBounty of Plattsburgh Housing Outlet in Plattsburgh to design a new modular home.
"We spent months designing a house that would be accessible for me and give us the space we need," said Hunsdon.