Yussuf was only 20 years old when he was forced to flee his home in Somalia for a refugee camp in neighboring Kenya.
It was 1990 and the beginning of the civil war in his country. Home to members of the Bantu minority, his village was attacked by armed militia, and Yussuf was forced, at knifepoint, to witness the murder of his pregnant mother.
With his father in hiding, it was up to Yussuf and his older sister to lead and carry their five younger siblings to safety. Joining hundreds of other terrified Bantu, they subsisted on leaves and rain water as they walked for 15 days before reaching the safety of the UN camp.
While no longer fearing for their lives, life in the camp was still very difficult. The seven brothers and sisters shared a tent, subsisting on meager food rations.
Besides safety, the UN offered all refugees a chance to get an education, something that Yussuf had been denied in Somalia. He jumped at the chance, eventually became a teacher, and even won a scholarship to study social work in Nairobi for two years.
When the US made the decision in 1999 to offer the Bantu visas to come to America, everyone in Yussuf’s family applied to emigrate. In 2004, now married and the father of a little girl, Yussuf and his family followed his older sister to Milwaukee.
Yussuf’s first job was working third shift in a factory. Now he continues to study at area colleges and works as a social worker at Catholic Charities, helping other refugees transition to new lives.
About two years ago, after hearing about ACTS from his supervisor at work, Yussuf decided to pursue home ownership.
He spent more than a year working with a homeownership counselor, learning how to budget and deal with credit issues, and then worked with a homeowner specialist to secure a loan and grants to purchase and rehab a tidy duplex on Milwaukee’s near Northside. Yussuf, his wife and five children share the lower flat and a relative occupies the upstairs.
A universe away from his oppressed and impoverished beginnings, Yussuf is teaching his children the value of education and responsibility as a means of securing a comfortable and independent lifestyle.
Never imagining that he would someday own his own home, home ownership has validated the struggles and hard work of this resilient and ambitious young man.