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Houston Habitat for Humanity Rebuilding our Town

Beatriz Lira works alongside the volunteer team from the Coalition of Churches as she hammers a nail into a wall that will soon be part of her new home. Lira’s new home is just one of 42 being built for Tropical Storm Allison flood victims as part of Houston Habitat for Humanity’s Rebuilding Our Town. Lira and other Habitat for Humanity homeowners must put in 300 hours of “sweat equity” which consists of labor on their own home, as well as other Houston Habitat homes. The coalition includes Spring Branch Presbyterian, Salem Lutheran Evangelical, St. John’s Presbyterian and St. Phillip’s Presbyterian churches.

Dozens of families left without homes after Tropical Storm Allison will have new places to live soon, thanks to Houston Habitat for Humanity, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church and other faith and corporate partners. Together with hundreds of concerned individuals, these groups partnered with deserving families, most of whom were victimized by last year’s flood, to build 42 homes as part of the Rebuilding Our Town campaign. Rebuilding Our Town recently kicked off with an event at the Wood Glen subdivision in Northeast Houston. Harris County Judge Robert Eckels and city officials helped launch the “power build.”

“This is the largest build we’ve done since our Jimmy Carter Work Project in 1998,” says Milby Hart, executive director for Houston Habitat for Humanity. “And now, we’ve embraced the opportunity to launch this campaign – the single largest effort to build permanent-housing solutions since the floods of Tropical Storm Allison hit our community last year.”

“This is a very special build for Houston Habitat,” says Dave Daniels, development director for Houston Habitat for Humanity. “We are targeting the majority of these homes to offer shelter for hardworking, low-income Houston families who, in many cases, were victims of the flood.”
Houston Habitat started this project shortly after the waters receded. Churches and individuals contacted the group to request help for families hit by the floods. Houston Habitat put the wheels into motion with recently purchased land and cleared the undeveloped area. In preparation for construction, they have already paved streets and poured concrete slabs. The group has evaluated potential families to determine which 42 families will have the opportunity to earn a home in Wood Glen. One of the fortunate recipients is the Davis family.

“When the floods hit, we honestly didn’t know what we were going to do,” says Debra Davis, a single parent of 14-year-old son Dezeral Davis and 16-year-old daughter Jessica Lewis. “I had suffered a stroke the day before the rains came. I was at home on bed rest and my neighbors had to carry me out – our house was completely wiped out by the flood. My children have had to live with different relatives since then, but for the grace of God, Houston Habitat for Humanity will help me reunite my family again.”

Yolanda Lopez was faced with a similar situation. She and her 30-year-old mentally disabled daughter Mary Ann were left without a place to live. “I didn’t know what we were going to do,” says Yolanda. “The water was waist high and I had to lift my grown daughter up to keep her from drowning. I hurt myself lifting her, but what else could I do? I’ll never be able to truly repay Houston Habitat and all of the volunteers from Burlington Resources for all that they have done for me and my daughter.”

Thanks to this effort, an entire subdivision will be created as the homes are built from the ground up in section three of the Wood Glen subdivision. Houston Habitat’s purchase of this undeveloped land – near the intersection of East Tidwell and Mesa Road – represents the largest land acquisition for the organization since the Jimmy Carter Work Project in 1998, in which 100 homes were built in one week. The Rebuilding Our Town effort in Wood Glen is the first of many “rebuilding” events that Houston Habitat plans to hold.
Houston Habitat expects that the homes will be finished in July. Upon completion, a celebration will be held and families will be given keys to their new homes.

Some of the Rebuilding Our Town sponsors include Lakewood Church, KSBJ Christian Radio, Wells Fargo, ExxonMobil, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, WesternGeco, Shell Oil Company Foundation, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Computer Associates, Pete Dienna & Special Friends, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, St. Philip Presbyterian Church, St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, Spring Branch Presbyterian, Burlington Resources, The Dow Chemical Company, Whirlpool Corporation and Aramark. The Elk Corporation is donating shingles for 50 houses, Domco Tarkett Commerical is donating flooring for 42 homes, as well as the time for installation, Shell Oil Company-Polymer/Corterra Group is donating carpet for 25 homes, Houston Community College is donating trees and shrubs for the neighborhood’s landscaping and Washington Mutual is donating a Massey-Ferguson tractor.

Sponsors and volunteers are still needed to help build homes. To find out how you can help, please call Dave Daniels at 713-671-9993, ext. 14 or visit
www.houstonhabitat.org

Houston Habitat does not give houses away for free. Habitat homeowners make a down payment and mortgage payments on an interest-free loan, which go directly to a fund that helps finance the construction of other Houston Habitat homes. Each year, Houston Habitat receives an average of 3,000 applicants. The organization’s Family Selection Committee chooses potential homeowners based on the following requirements: applicants must be living in sub-standard conditions; applicants must be willing to provide 300 hours of “sweat equity,” which consists of labor on their own home, as well as other Houston Habitat homes; and future homeowners must be prepared for the long-term commitment of owning a home (repaying the zero-interest mortgage and paying taxes) by attending a variety of Houston Habitat-sponsored workshops.

Since December of 1988, Houston Habitat has housed more than 1,400 people with the construction of more than 325 homes in the Houston area. The group has been honored with numerous awards, including the 2000 Habitat International’s Millard Fuller Award for Most Homes Built in Middle States Region; the 2000 Carol Vance’s Helping Hands Community Service Award for the Innerchange Freedom Initiative; the 1999 Energy Star Home Builder of the Year Special Recognition Award; and the 1998 Mayor’s Proud Partner Award.

The local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, Houston Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. It is dedicated to eliminating sub-standard housing in the city of Houston by helping low-income families earn a safe, decent home in which to live and raise their children.

By relying on volunteer labor and acquiring building materials and professional services through donations or at-cost, Houston Habitat can build quality homes and pass the savings along to partner families (buyers).