Meet one of our newest homebuyer families: Melody, Tyler, and their 4 children (only the youngest is pictured here). These folks have weathered some serious storms, most notably a wind storm that dropped a tree through their motor home and left a gaping hole. But they never give up. After the wind storm, they bought what they could afford to replace the ruined motor home – a small school bus approximately 20 feet by 8 feet – and kept living, kept working, kept going to school.
An Expensive Way to Live
When a generous donor gave Habitat a trailer, Melody and Tyler were able to upgrade their living conditions somewhat. There’s a leak in the roof and they aren’t hooked up to water, power, or sewer so they run a generator and have an outdoor toilet. Both the generator and the toilet are costly to use – at least $20 per day for gas and $100 per month for the toilet. “It’s a pretty expensive way to live,” Tyler says.
Examples for Us All
Melody and Tyler learned about Habitat from the Ferndale Food Bank and applied. They joined our program this past year and are highly motivated, already working hard on their sweat equity hours. They still have to make difficult choices sometimes, like whether to heat or eat. But they refuse to sink. They are energetic, dedicated examples for all of us who have struggled to stay afloat in one way or another … and that’s everyone, isn’t it?
A message from our Executive Director:
#GivingTuesday is less than a week away and if you choose to participate I hope that you will consider Habitat for Humanity.A safe, decent place to lay your head at night is a basic human need. Over 14,000 in Whatcom County will struggle this Thanksgiving to provide for their family, not only this coming Thursday, but every day, because their living conditions are substandard or – equally detrimental – unaffordable.
- The Ortiz’s mortgage payment is based on cost, financed at 0%, and set at no more than 28% of the family’s gross income. This means the family can afford other basics such as food, clothing and health care.
- The affordable payment means there is reduced need to utilize other support social services.
- The affordable payment means that children don’t move from school system to school system due to another rent increase.
- At 0%, every mortgage payment builds 100% equity. It’s like putting the entire amount into a savings account. The stability and ability to weather difficult times is priceless.
- Every mortgage payment helps the next family in need by providing unrestricted cash flow to support Habitat’s mission to eradicate substandard living conditions in Whatcom County. Habitat founder Millard Fuller called this Biblical Economics.
Your gift gives in so many ways and it is needed more than ever. Please click here and make a huge difference in the prospects for this and many other future families in need of housing.
Wishing all a warm, safe and memorable Thanksgiving full of many meaningful moments with family and friends.
John P.C. Moon
Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County
Erlin and Sergio Lopez live in a 3-bedroom apartment with their 4 children. Which would be a little snug but overall not too bad if it weren’t for the fact that they share that 3-bedroom apartment with several extended family members. As it is, Erlin, Sergio, and their kids live crammed into a single bedroom. Way beyond snug.
Working Towards Home Ownership
Sergio Lopez at work on the Sumas rehab
Like so many Whatcom County residents, the Lopez family works, goes to school, and pays their bills … but still can’t afford safe, decent shelter through traditional channels. So when they heard about Habitat, they immediately applied to become homeowners. They joined our program in August and have been working hard on their sweat equity hours. When we asked Erlin and Sergio what they’re looking forward to most about owning their own house, they said, “Having a steady home where we’ll be able to see our kids grow.” They said the kids are already lobbying hard for a dog!
Proud Partners of Habitat
When we asked Erlin and Sergio what they’d like people to know about them, they answered plainly, “That we’re not bad people.” Indeed, we’re proud to partner with this amazing family. But we know about the judgment and intolerance so many hard-working folks face simply because they can’t afford decent shelter in a world where housing grows more expensive and unattainable every day. We invite any who may have doubt to volunteer … we’re confident that if you work alongside any one of our partner homebuyer families, you will finish the day with a changed heart.
It took nearly 4 years of persistent effort, but at the end of last month we finally received a permit to begin building on the Leeside Drive lot we acquired back in 2012. We celebrated Habitat style … by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work!
Building House Number 37
This will be our 37th ground-up build in Whatcom County and we’re partnering with the Ortiz family to make it happen. The Ortiz’s joined our program in December of 2011 and have already put in over the minimum 500 hours of sweat equity before we’ve even broken ground! They were out at the build site this past Saturday working alongside volunteers and staff to clean up the lot and remove debris.
Build with the Ortiz’s
There are many more work parties to come and we’ll need all the hands we can get to help the Ortiz family finish their home in time for the 2017/2018 school year. Please contact Janet Straka at 360.715.9170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up to volunteer with Habitat. This project is led by Women Build volunteers. Habitat welcomes volunteers of all genders.
It was a beautiful day out in Sumas on Sunday as we gathered to welcome the Gutierrez family home. Executive Director John Moon opened the celebration with a reminder of the ripple effect that occurs each time another family is housed – their mortgage payments (made to Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County) create an income stream that helps make more homes possible for more families. In this way, the Gutierrez home is both a strong foundation for the family and a strong foundation on which we continue to build.
A Strong Foundation for One Family …
Every parent wants a better future for their family. Every child deserves to live in stability. As young Salvadore cut the ribbon on the home his family rehabilitated with Habitat, that better future and that stability came sharply into focus for all of us in attendance. It was a symbolic moment that embodied not just the work done to get to this point, but all of the work now possible beyond it. With a decent place to live and an affordable mortgage, the Gutierrez family can save more, invest in education, pursue opportunity, and have more financial stability.
… Is a Strong Foundation for Many Families
As we look ahead to more builds – including Telegraph Townhomes, the 24 home project slated for groundbreaking in 2017 – we do so from the vantage point of other, completed builds. Builds like this one, which will help to fund future projects. And the hand up multiplies, raising more people out of poverty and into stable, independent lives. Will you help to fortify this strong foundation by giving today?
On Friday, September 9th, the Gutierrez family’s home closed, becoming the 4th complete house rehabilitation we’ve performed. And what a change! Just look at a few before and after photos …
Remarkable! The Gutierrez family has put in hundreds of hours of work to make their dream of home ownership a reality and we feel privileged to have partnered with these dedicated folks.
Join Us for the Dedication
This Sunday, September 18th, we’ll meet at 211 Front Street in Sumas at 4PM for a home dedication ceremony. All those with well wishes for the Gutierrez family are welcome. A home dedication is a moving, celebratory time to congratulate the family as well as to thank the many volunteers and donors who have helped bring about a permanent housing solution to yet another struggling family. We’d love to see you there!
We’re almost there! The Gutierrez family built their fence this past Saturday under Construction Project Manager Paul Stromdahl’s supervision. There was a fence in place, but it was in such substandard condition that we had to replace it. “It was pretty horrible,” says Stromdahl. But the new fence, as you can see, is sturdy and ready for duty!
What’s Left to Do?
Stromdahl’s leading a work party this Saturday, August 27th and is planning to tackle the following:
- Installing bifold doors
- Putting up towel bars
- Installing door knobs, cabinet knobs, and drawer pulls
- Starting on the shed
Want to help? Work starts at 9am (plan to get to Sumas by 8:30 – 8:45 for instructions from Stromdahl), breaks for lunch around Noon, and continues on until 4pm. Bring a sack lunch and wear comfortable clothes/footwear that covers your whole foot (no sandals or open-toed shoes). Call Janet at 360.715.9170 or email email@example.com if you’re planning on coming out. It’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend for building!
Construction Project Manager Paul Stromdahl is burning the candle at both ends to get the Gutierrez family in their home before the kids are due back in school. We’d hate for the children to have to transfer after the school year has already begun. But to accomplish our goal, Paul needs all the help he can possibly get. If you’re available this Saturday, August 6th and willing to help out, we’d be grateful to have you. Paul plans to tackle flooring, counter tops, painting, and some yard work.
Call Janet at 360.715.9170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up. Plan to get to Sumas by 8:30 to 8:45 AM. We’ll take a lunch break around Noon and work until 4 to 4:30 PM. If you’re unable to stay for the entire day, please let us know so we can plan accordingly!
We’re pleased to introduce Hillary, our new Resource Development Coordinator, to the Habitat team! Hillary first came to us in 2014 as a volunteer. “She made a LOT of Auction phone calls,” says Fred Sheppard, Resource Development Manager. That dedication and social skill makes her well suited to working with community members and businesses who want to support Habitat’s mission of building strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. We’re thrilled to have her!
Speaking of shelter, we would like to hand over the Sumas house keys to the Gutierrez family before school starts in late August, but we’ve still got a fair amount of work to finish up. This coming Saturday, July 30th, we plan to lay down vinyl flooring, install cabinets, and paint. We need volunteers every weekend between now and August 20th to finish on time. Please consider joining us down the home stretch by calling Janet Straka at 360.715.9170 to sign up. You can also email her at email@example.com.
Play Golf for Habitat Next Week
Helping out at Habitat can also involve a nine iron, thanks to Whatcom County Association of Realtors. WCAR’s annual golf tournament is next Thursday, August 4th, at North Bellingham Golf Course. Because we’re the beneficiary of this year’s tournament, you can play golf and help Habitat at the same time! Shotgun start is at 1:30 PM and there will be prizes, BBQ, and even a few beer holes. Sign up individually or in teams here.
One of the most persistent myths about Habitat for Humanity is that we give houses away for free. In fact, we sell homes at cost to qualifying individuals/families like the Gutierrez family who demonstrate a willingness to partner with us. These folks are what we call Partner Homebuyers and make no mistake: they don’t just buy their homes, they work for them, too.
Becoming a Partner Homebuyer
Partner Homebuyers are selected based primarily on three things:
- Need for housing. People living in substandard or unsafe conditions are good possible candidates for our program. The Gutierrez family home is severely overcrowded, a problem which often creates health concerns as well, thereby marrying substandard with unsafe – a deleterious combination.
- Willingness to partner. Becoming a Partner Homebuyer means entering into a long-term relationship with Habitat for Humanity. In the first place, building a home takes time and hard work. Then, once the home is built, homeowners remit their mortgage payments to Habitat. All in all, we’re talking about a relationship of up to 30 years or more. And with 250 hours of sweat equity to complete before construction even begins, that relationship begins with labor. Folks like the Gutierrez family have consistently demonstrated their desire to work alongside us toward a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
- Ability to repay the mortgage. Partner Homebuyers like the Gutierrez family have a proven history of prompt bill payments and the documented ability to pay their mortgage each month.
Transitioning to Habitat Homeowner
Soon the Gutierrez family will move into their new home. This transition signifies the culmination of about 16 months of consistent effort. After joining our program in April of 2015, they rolled up their sleeves immediately and got to work, primarily in our store. Within 7 months they’d completed their first 250 hours of sweat equity. Not content to rest on their laurels, the Gutierrez family worked even harder, completing another 250 hours by the end of the year. The home they’ll soon move into is far from free. They’ve paid with their labor and enthusiasm and will continue to pay with their pocketbooks. A true partnership, we’re proud to call the Gutierrez family our next Habitat Homeowners.