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Jenna Bolyarde

Jenna Bolyarde, who was formerly homeless, recently purchased a home in north Napa.

It’s the little things that make Jenna Bolyarde happy.

Coming home. Cooking dinner. Cleaning her kitchen. Helping her kids with homework.

While that sounds like everyday life to most people, Bolyarde takes none of it for granted.

“It’s a treat,” she said.

Over an 18-month period several years ago, Bolyarde was homeless. She lived in her car or slept on couches or even on the bathroom floor of a hospital.

She was also an IV heroin user who had lost custody of both of her children.

Today, Bolyarde is in recovery. She’s also a brand new homeowner. And in Napa Valley, no less.

“It’s surreal,” she said.

Bolyarde was able to buy her first home, a manufactured home located inside a Napa mobile home park, thanks to the city’s Down Payment Assistance Program.

“God’s pieced my little family back together,” she said.

It’s a goal that Bolyarde would never have imagined just a few years ago.

But after hearing about the Down Payment Assistance Program, she decided to apply.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” she asked herself.

To buy the home, Bolyarde had to come up with $5,700 for a down payment on a first mortgage.

The city’s Down Payment Assistance Program — also referred to as the “silent second program” — was able to provide Bolyarde a second mortgage of approximately $35,000.

Bolyarde said she pays about $850 a month in utilities, rent for the lot and other costs at the mobile home park. Her mortgage cost for the home unit itself is about $710 per month.

The city’s mortgage will eventually be forgiven. If she sells the home before that specified time period, she’ll have to pay the loan back with interest. The Down Payment Assistance Program is funded through grant funds received from the state of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development, said Lark Ferrell, city of Napa housing manager.

Bolyarde’s home is newly hers but not new to her. She bought the manufactured home from her parents. They’re moving to another home.

“They wanted to give me a chance,” to own her own home, she said.

The house includes three bedrooms and two bathrooms. A newer model, it features modern appliances, flooring and other details.

Bolyarde doesn’t have custody of her two teenage children, but each has a room at the house, she noted. Bolyarde has also reconciled with the father of their two children, and he shares the home with her. Their family also includes two cats, an elderly “chiweiner” dog and a ball python that lives quietly in a glass tank.

Bolyarde works as a housing specialist for Abode services. Abode runs the homeless shelters operating within Napa County, including two year-round homeless shelters, the Samaritan Family Shelter and the South Napa Shelter.

She’s also on the board of the Napa Continuum of Care, a consortium of non-profit, faith-based and government agencies that supply homeless services in Napa County.

When not working at Abode, Bolyarde also attends Napa Valley College.

“My dream would be to transfer to UC Berkeley,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s feasible,” she said, but that’s her ideal, she admitted.

“I want people to know how much their work helps,” those in need, said Bolyarde.

“You don’t always get to see the success stories,” but, “It can happen.”

Buying her own home gives her a real feeling of accomplishment and security.

“I’m not just getting by,” she said. “I’m a part of this community and the city.”

Bolyarde said some of her first plans for the house include painting an outside shed, replacing some exterior steps and decorating. In another five or so years, she might remodel the kitchen.

She’s even thought about doing a cross stitch pattern to hang on the walls – something irreverent or cheeky from a company called Subversive Cross Stitch.

“It’s pretty cool,” she said of being a homeowner.

“This is possible,” she said.

“Without Napa’s help, I wouldn’t be a homeowner. I wouldn’t be reunited with my kids.”

She’s hoping to make a difference to others who used to be in her shoes.

“Napa is a really special place that it has the means to actually end homelessness in our county,” said Bolyarde. “If we pulled together, we could very well help create the template or structure that other counties across the nation use to do the same.”

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.