The Huante family used to live in a dilapidated two-bedroom house without insulation. The home was conveniently near the farm where husband Jaime Huante works, and for a couple working three jobs between them and struggling to get by, it was the best shelter they could afford.
Winters were so cold that the couple didn’t feel safe letting their children sleep in their frigid north-facing bedroom, so the whole family crowded into Jaime and his wife Leandra’s room during the coldest months of the year.
When Leandra, a Whatcom County native, learned about Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County’s homeownership program, she convinced her husband that they apply. They figured it was a long shot. But they had nothing to lose.
When they were accepted into the program, the family dug into their 500 hour sweat equity requirement and did not look back. Leandra worked at the Habitat Store in between her two part time jobs and caring for her children. After all that, she still found time to cook pots of homemade soup for delighted construction volunteers working on her home.
Jaime joined the construction crew almost every Saturday, after having risen at 3 a.m. to milk cows. After building all day, he returned to the farm for another shift of milking.
This summer, the Huante family moved into Habitat Whatcom’s first ultra-energy efficient “passive” style house. Even before their first winter, Leandra says the family has noticed a dramatic decrease in their utility bills.
The children have their own rooms (though sisters Alejandra and Guadalupe are close and prefer to room together) and a place they are proud to invite friends over to play, and instead of a remote, rural road with fast traffic and no sidewalk, they live on a quiet dead-end street, near other families with young children. There is a park at the end of the street, and the Interurban Trail is just over their back fence.
“We love to ride our bikes together,” Leandra says. “We go all over town.”
Five-year-old Guadalupe just started Kindergarten, and is proud to show visitors her new backpack and school supplies. Leandra hopes her children can go to college one day. With all the advantages of a safe, healthy, stable home, and the hundreds of dollars each month that the family is saving on housing and utility bills, seeing her children graduate from college is now a realistic dream.
When asked what the biggest difference is between their new home and the old one, Leandra laughs and looks skyward helplessly, as if she doesn’t know where to begin. Before her mother can start to speak, Guadalupe interrupts with her opinion. “We’re safe,” she says.
“Yes,” Leandra agrees, smiling at her daughter. “We’re safe.”