Long road home: Nonprofits help Concord family find a place of their own

  • Jonathan Gilman, 29, walks down the hallway with his daughter Lylah, 2, in their new home on Fisherville Road in Concord on Tuesday.

  • Three-year-old Kennedy Gilman and her sister Lylah walk out of their bedroom in their new home on Fisherville Road in Concord.

  • Three-year-old Kennedy Gilman (right) drives her sister Lylah, 2, around the yard of their new home on Fisherville Road in Concord. Elizabeth Frantz photos / Monitor staff

  • Christina Gilman, 27, puts up 3-year-old Kennedy’s hair as Lylah drinks milk in the living room of their new home on Fisherville Road in Concord on Tuesday. The previously homeless family received help from Family Promise of Greater Concord and Habitat for Humanity. Elizabeth Frantz photos / Monitor staff

  • Christina (center) and Jonathan Gilman get their daughters, Lylah (left) and Kennedy, dressed to go outside in the living room of their new home on Fisherville Road in Concord on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. The previously homeless family received help from Family Promise of Greater Concord and Habitat for Humanity. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Gilmans have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.

This time last year, Christina Gilman along with her two children, were homeless, and spending their nights in various church basements in Concord. But they had a guiding light – a promise of a home that would be their own, someday.

And during the last week of September, that dream finally came true; the Gilmans moved into a place they helped build themselves, through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity and Family Promise. Gilman said it’s the first place they’ve ever owned.

“It’s so nice to be here in our home,” she said. “Being able to give my kids baths before bedtime, it’s great. ... Things haven’t been this good in a long time.”

The road to home ownership has not been easy for the Gilmans.

Christina, 27, and her husband, Jonathan Gilman, 29, met five years ago at the home of Christina’s friend. After discovering they had both gone to Concord High School at the same time, they hit it off; three years later, they had Kennedy, and Lylah a year later.

“Jon thought it was a good idea to keep them a year apart,” Gilman said.

She glanced out the window, where her husband was entertaining their two girls in the front yard on an ATV. She smiled, reflexively, as Lylah, cranky and in need of a nap, leaned back and howled.

“He thought they would be best friends,” she said. “Right now, they’re little terrors.”

Hard times

About two years ago, Christina and the children were accepted into subsidized housing in Pittsfield. But later, when she tried to have Jonathan added to the lease, she said she wasn’t allowed to alter it. In April 2016, after nine months in their subsidized home, Christina said, she was handed an eviction notice.

“It was really hard on our relationship,” she said. “It was really draining on our family. Something like that, you’d think it would bring you closer together.”

But over time, the family came back together.

“We wanted to be a family,” Gilman said. “Our kids, they motivated us, and we still loved each other. We wanted them to have more.”

Gilman quickly found help in Family Promise of Greater Concord, a nonprofit that helps low-income and at-risk families find independence and sustainable housing through a network of congregations in the interfaith community. For the next 14 months, the family spent their nights at various churches around the city.

It was while washing dishes at CenterPoint Church in Concord last summer when Gilman met Joyce Sullivan, Family Promise volunteer and board chairwoman for New Hampshire Capital Region Habitat for Humanity. They got to talking, and in August, Sullivan reached out to Cashmir Cranson, executive director of Family Promise.

Finding home

Habitat for Humanity and Family Promise worked together to find a permanent home for the Gilmans. They settled on a mobile home off Fisherville Road, but moving in right away wasn’t an option.

“It was a total gut job,” Cranson said, standing in the home’s now-finished living room. “It’s hard to imagine the place as it was before – the walls are painted a warm pink and the floors shine.”

But after months of volunteer work and sweat equity from the Gilmans, the home was finished, and the family moved in the last week of September. And while Habitat for Humanity still owns the deed to the house, they’ve provided a no-interest loan to the Gilmans – and like any other homeowner, as long as they pay the mortgage, the home will be theirs someday.

Cranson said the Gilmans were one of the first families the New Hampshire leg of Family Promise helped. For him, it’s gratifying to see them land on their feet.

“You don’t always see positive results in social work services,” he said. “To see a young family get a hand up to get to a better place, I think that’s why people do it.”

And for Gilman, it’s a chance have something she’s always wanted – a yard with a 6-month-old Chocolate Lab mix, Rusty, and a place to do her girls’ hair and put them to bed.

“It’s like they knew they belonged here,” she said, of when the family first moved in. “They were so excited about bedtime. Those first few nights, we didn’t even have mattresses yet – they didn’t care.”

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)