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Success Stories

West Virginia Man Achieves Dream of Homeownership with Assistance From USDA

Andrew Stacy
Homeownership Month 2023
Richard Smith stands on the porch of his new home in Elkins, West Virginia.

It was 2019, Richard Smith was unemployed and had just lost everything he owned in an apartment fire. To say Smith was down on his luck was an understatement but his two children provided him with the motivation to pick himself up and turn his luck around. 

“It’s just me and my two kids,” said Smith. “They’re the ones who provoked me to do this and I just couldn’t give up on them.”

First, Smith knew that he needed to find a new apartment, but he needed some assistance, so he turned to the Randolph County Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Smith and his children were able to find an apartment, but it was about this time that his children asked about getting a house. It wasn’t an option at the time, but it prompted Smith to set a goal of owning his own home. 

Smith decided to sign up for HUD’s Family Self Sufficient Program, which helps people better themselves and provides a monetary incentive upon completion of the program. One of the first things Smith did in the program was to work with the Home Ownership Center to get housing counseling and to take homebuyer education classes. Smith was also focused on getting a job to support himself and his children. He earned a job working at the donation door at the local Goodwill. Smith worked hard and his employer began to take notice.

“I got a promotion and went from donation door to team lead, which came with a raise,” said Smith. 

Things were finally starting to fall into place for Smith thanks to his never give up attitude and some hard work. Through the Home Ownership Center, a local loan packager that partners with USDA, Smith was able to obtain a USDA Rural Development (RD) Single Family Housing Direct Home Loan, also known as a 502 Direct Loan. RD Area Specialist Shelly Hickman worked with the Home Ownership Center on approving and underwriting the loan and Smith worked with RD Loan Technician Nashua Hammer throughout the loan application process.

“She was very, very helpful,” said Smith. “Any questions I had or any concerns I always went through her, and she addressed them right away. I don’t think I could have done it without her.”

In 2022, Smith was able to move into his new home. After completing HUD’s Family Self Sufficient Program, Smith was awarded $14,000, which he used to buy a new car to help him get to work. It was a long process but, through continued support and sheer determination, Smith was able to turn his luck around. Smith and his children love their new house, their new neighborhood, and their new car. 

“Things are looking up and looking great,” said Smith. “You know, without the confidence of everybody that helped me and never gave up on me, including Nashua, I think I probably would have given up on myself. Seeing everybody not giving up on me made me not want to give up on myself.”

To learn more about RD’s Single-Family Housing Programs, please visit: https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/single-family-housing-programs.

Obligation Amount:
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • West Virginia: District 2