Olathe has always been my home. My great-grandparents moved here in 1859 after they were kicked out of Missouri for being anti-slavery, and the Houglands have been here ever since. I grew up next door to my grandparents along Old Highway 56 in a remote area where ours were the only two homes around. As a child, I looked up to my mom, a compassionate, self-sufficient woman who owned a small business called Greeting Service – essentially, the welcome wagon. She was the first person many new Olatheans met when they moved to town. She knew everyone, which meant I couldn’t get away with much, but what I remember most about her is how much she cared for everyone around her. My dad, who served as a state representative and a judge, earned people’s respect, but my mom earned their love.
When I grew up, I followed my mom’s example. Luckily, she was always there for me, even when at twenty-five, I too became a single mother. I’ve lived through divorce, through working full time and raising a child, through trying to arrange child care and sick days in an inflexible work force, and I’ve come out stronger on the other side.
I first became aware of homelessness in our state when I attended My Father’s House in Paola, KS. Church services were held at the shelter, where the pastor would sometimes wear a shirt with the number 3,654 on it – the number of rural homeless in Kansas at the time. This number did not include the homeless population of Johnson or Wyandotte Counties. Later, I learned of Project 1020 through Facebook, and I began volunteering with them. At the time, their shelter was at The Branches Church. It was a lot of humanity in one room and yet, we kept everyone safe and warm during the winter months.
The more time I spent with the homeless, the larger my passion for their plight became, but this is only part of why affordable housing is so important to me.
Over the past five years, I’ve followed more fully in my mother’s footsteps by becoming a small business owner – a real estate agent. It brings me joy to help families make their biggest investment and begin to build generational wealth. Yet with housing prices, rental prices, and mortgage rates on the rise while wages remain stagnant, it is becoming harder and harder for renters to become buyers. I want to see the dream of home ownership preserved for generations to come, including for my own grandchildren.
When I decided to run for the state legislature, it was with the struggling people of Kansas and my district in mind. My life has taught me the value of both hard work and compassion. Now, I’d like to bring these experiences to Topeka and put them to work for the people of Kansas and House District 15.