A True Homecoming
Habitat for Humanity builds barrier-free home for sick child and family
Can you imagine giving birth to a beautiful baby boy, but never getting to take him home from the hospital? That’s been Nikeisa Johnson’s reality for three years.
Born three months premature, Nikeisa’s son and fourth child, Bishop, requires 24-hour medical attention. Since birth, he’s lived in a hospital and spends his time in a hospital bed.
But soon, that will all change.
“Bishop was born with serious heart problems,” says Nikeisa. “He had an extensive surgery after birth and did well, but a couple of months later, he got pneumonia. He took a turn for the worse. It was touch and go for a while and he has been on a ventilator since. He remained sedated and paralyzed for months.”
Nikeisa and her three daughters currently rent a second floor, two bedroom apartment in an old industrial building. With little space and stairs, Nikeisa is unable to care for Bishop at home.
Last year, hoping to obtain a larger home that could accommodate Bishop’s needs, Nikeisa submitted a homeownership application to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plainfield & Middlesex County in New Jersey. Her application was approved in December 2015 for a five bedroom home in Plainfield.
Habitat for Humanity International builds, renovates, and repairs homes all over the world with the help of donations. Habitat homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor – called sweat equity – working alongside volunteers and other Habitat homeowners. In the United States, Habitat homeowners purchase their houses through affordable monthly mortgage payments.
Nikeisa’s home will be the first barrier-free home built by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plainfield & Middlesex County. The home will be made with wider openings and will be wheelchair accessible.
“Bishop mainly lives in his hospital bed now,” explains Nikeisa. “But he’ll have the opportunity of wheelchair mobility in our new home.”
Rutgers University (RU) Habitat Campus Chapter students committed to Nikeisa’s project as a Half House Sponsor. They raised $50,000, which includes a $10,000 matching grant from State Farm.
RU students, with the help of State Farm agents and others, have already built the garage and started framing.
“I came to the build because I grew up in a single parent household and Nikeisa’s story hit close to home,” says State Farm Agent John Powell. “I’ve seen first-hand the hard work and sacrifice it takes to raise children into adults. Now that I am a business owner, I feel it’s necessary to give back to the community.”
As a lifetime resident of Plainfield, Nikeisa is excited to soon own a home in her hometown.
“My daughters, Bishop and I are so happy,” she says. We’ll have a lot more space and we’ll finally get to spend more time with Bishop. It’s a true homecoming!”