CHICAGO (CBS) — A single mother was welcomed to her new home on the Southwest Side on Tuesday, thanks to assistance from a home ownership program at the Chicago Housing Authority.

The CHA’s “Choose To Own” program helps low-income residents purchase homes by providing monthly mortgage assistance for up to 15 years, or for up to 30 years for the elderly or disabled.

The program also provides counseling to help people navigate the process of buying a home.

For former public housing resident Susan Tovar, her new house near 55th and Lawndale is a home for the holidays and beyond.

The mother of three – ages 6, 13, and 16 – was working full-time and earning a degree in social work from St. Augustin College while she saved up for the house and improved her credit score to be able to join the Choose To Own program.

“It means a lot, not just for me, but mainly for my children,” she said. “It feels great to be able to provide them a place to call home. It’s amazing when I see my children playing on the yard and they don’t worry about anything. I see them running with the little dogs. They couldn’t do that where we were before. I love it, and they are so happy.”

Tovar said she can tear up just walking through the door.

“Yes. I was very emotional. My son says ‘You’re going to cry again,’” she said.

Ald. Michael Zalewski helped welcome her to the 23rd Ward.

“I just want to congratulate you, and welcome you, and you’re going to do a great job raising your family here. It’s a beautiful neighborhood,” he said.

CHA chief executive officer Eugene Jones said going through the program was no small task for a single mother who was working and going to school full-time.

“She’s an example of everyone else who says I can’t do this because of the kids and so forth. She persevered through all that,” he said. “She was not going to give up, and here’s the fruits of her efforts. She’s here in a beautiful house before the holidays. I’m pretty sure Thanksgiving’s going to be special.”

Tovar was the 500th person to become a homeowner through the same program, which began in 2001.

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