Niagara Gazette — It might takes Janet Billingslea a little longer than some to conquer momentous challenges. But, she eventually gets the job done. After six years of relentless pursuit — despite a car accident and the death of her mom — she received her degree in social work from Niagara County Community College, with two awards for her outstanding efforts. Buying a home took a little longer, but working with Niagara Falls Neighborhood Housing Services, she was able to get her finances in shape and purchase a tidy little bungalow on 81st Street. She now lives there happily with two dogs she recently rescued. Fortified by her successes, she plans to continue her education at Buffalo State and eventually become a doctor of social work. That’s what can happen sometimes when a person has a little help when reaching towards their goals. On Wednesday, those like Billingslea, who just need some guidance to reach their homeownership goals, can learn about the many types of assistance available, through a Home Buyers Fair sponsored by Niagara Falls Neighborhood Housing Services. Kathy Steinman, executive director of NHS, said the non-profit has helped hundreds purchase homes in the region, but she and her staff still struggle to get the word out that help is available. “We’ve been around for 34 years but people really don’t know we exist and that’s challenging,” she said. Those who are able to find the agency, are often rewarded with home ownership. “Last year we had 64 new homebuyers throughout Niagara County,” Steinman said. “We keep trying to tell people we’re still here, this is what we do, this is what we have and we can help you.” The agency, located at 479 16th St. in Niagara Falls, provides homebuyers with tools and incentives, including helping them repair their credit. NHS also buys area homes, renovates them and then sells them to those who are seeking a home. “We’re creating a lease-to-own program,” Steinman said. “It’s kind of a pilot program but it has worked very well, so far.” The fair, which is being held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Doris Jones Family Resource Building, 3001 9th Street , Niagara Falls, will include free credit reports for the first 20 people (photo identification is required for the reports), according to Danielle Rice, a housing counselor for NHS. She described the fair as very informal, with vendors giving out information at various tables. “People can just walk around and gather information,” Rice said. “Bankers, Realtors and other people will talk about different programs available to assist those who attend.” As for Billingslea, the 50-year-old new homeowner is grateful for the assistance of NHS. “I was blessed to find them,” she said. “And now I have a beautiful home.”
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