Learn more about some of our Habitat Homeowners
Before becoming a Habitat homeowner, Bashir’s family of 8 was living in a two bedroom apartment. Their family was making too much money to qualify for Section 8, but not enough to leave their living situation at the time. “Crammed in there… it was really hard on us. Mentally hard, and emotionally. Nobody had enough privacy. I had to put my boys and my girls together… And we only had one bathroom, which was very hard.”
Bashir did an AmeriCorps term with Somali Society, focusing on lowering the high school dropout rate for Somali teens. At a meeting, he met a Habitat AmeriCorps member who convinced him to apply to become a homeowner. He was not hopeful at first, because he was one of 300 applicants for seven or eight houses. “I just thought I wasn’t going to get it but I’m like okay let me try my luck, because I got nothing to lose. I’ve got a lot to gain but nothing to lose.”
“I got the letter saying I was one of the selected people, and I was jumping up and down! Thinking, oh my god, I won the lottery! That was the unexplainable thing. It’s like, somebody hands you your future, this opportunity right there. That’s the best time in my life. The whole program, I know there was heart break, it’s a long process and you have to be patient, but getting notified? That was the best part for me.”
Bashir feels very comfortable and connected with his community. “Somebody new moves in, every family will just go and give them something… ‘Here, welcome to the neighborhoods. Do you know where to put your garbage? It’s over there. Do you need us to give you the phone number who to call?’ That is very unique in life.”
“I am excited to grow old in that house, and my kids growing old in that house, and enjoying life to the fullest for the next 30, 40 years, whatever time I have. So I’m just blessed at this moment… I have no words… just joy and happiness.”
Penelope was a single mom, raising her son with the help of her family. “Between all of us…we raised him.” She began her process with Habitat back in 2004. “I put in a request at my church, ‘Pray for me because I really need something that I can afford. Please.’ Oh well, I guess it turned out that it worked!” One day at church, Penelope saw a presentation about Habitat for Humanity, “I was thinking that I can’t qualify, I can’t even apply… I had become kind of skeptical in this crazy world. Still she decided to call, and she clearly remembers her conversation with Emily. “She was very nice, explained, encouraged me and sent me all the information. And I was like I can’t believe! I knew it was a long shot… it was not a fact that I would get a house. But…just the fact that there was hope? It was really encouraging and motivating.” Penelope had no backup plan: if she hadn’t been accepted, she does not know what she would have done.
Penelope’s favorite part of the process was building together. “It was really cool… being with the AmeriCorps and all the volunteers, the people that were specifically helping me that I brought, and people but I didn’t know before. That’s the style of habitat, I think. Just the community.” She was especially moved by the volunteers who came out to help, sometimes in awful weather. “I wanted, desperately, to finish my hours as soon as possible. It was really bad weather, bad, bad in the winter. Rain, and cold, and the wind, it was amazing that people volunteered! I was there because I needed the house, but volunteers? In pouring [rain], cold, I mean really, it was horrible. For them to show up, it was amazing, to see the goodwill of others.”
“It is so peaceful. A house is something that’s with you for the rest of your life and that’s huge… it’s really something. When you help in any other area, you’re helping a lot, but it won’t last as much. But if you help Habitat, and you help others to own a home, you’re helping them without even being there!”
Before applying to Habitat, Iulia’s family was outgrowing their one bedroom apartment in Renton. In four years, the rent had almost doubled and the neighborhood’s crime rate had increased. Iulia halfheartedly checked out apartments that were closer to her job or to better schools for the kids, but they were all far out of her price range. Buying a home was “completely unattainable” There was no backup plan—Iulia is scared to even think about what would have happened if Habitat had not stepped in.
A family friend was going through the process of becoming a Habitat homeowner. While they were working on their sweat equity, Iulia would take care of their children. Watching a family from a similar background and living in similar conditions moving forward into a better situation inspired Iulia to apply as well. “Watching them throughout the process, I was determined… I’d give it a try at least. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Eventually, Iulia was able to apply to Habitat. “I did all the paperwork, it was not a big deal—the sections were pretty clearly written the list of documents you’re supposed to provide—it wasn’t complicated. We went ahead and submitted the package, then we just forgot about it. And then we received the phone call, because winners get notified by a phone call. I was screaming! …I couldn’t believe it.”
“We had orientation, then we started classes. We met other families which were also selected in the same month. I remember being on site with those families and we’re still neighbors. We know each other, our kids have grown up together. And I do appreciate that experience, quite a lot actually. I know a lot of neighborhoods, they don’t have that luxury. People sometimes don’t even know each other, they don’t even say hi to each other. We are together; we are truly together. We do talk, we raise kids together, and that is unique.”
The parts she enjoyed the most were her interactions with the construction crew: “Oh, I love Doug and Kristina! They are so positive and they know what they’re doing. And all the AmeriCorps—younger kids with hopes and ambitions. That’s so wonderful to be around people like that. And the volunteers too, you know, because we don’t see it in regular life. We never see people like that who are trying to trying to do something else for you and your neighbor. I appreciate it. That’s the best. The people there.”
“I had an infant, an elementary school student, work, AND sweat equity. It was just overwhelming. Habitat makes it very easy, very easy, but just by the nature of other demands, family demands, work demands, anything else can feel like the last straw to break the camel’s back. Seriously. It was very overwhelming. I was just tired all the time, my health declined, I just took it very hard. So I remember, someone who’d already moved into their house, they were like, “You know what, it looks clean after the dedication. It looks shiny and new and sparkly and all that, up until you bring in your furniture! Take a day and wash it. Just wash everything.” And that’s what I did, I took that advice. I took a day off right before we moved in. I came in that house, all by myself, with buckets and cleaning supplies. And I sat there, and I cried because I think that was a very powerful moment for me. At the dedication, there’s all these people around you, and it was wonderful, no question, but you kind of hold it together, right? But when it’s just you, and that house… It was big. So, I still remember it was a kind of a joyful day for me. It was me and all those buckets, and I would just wash all the walls and the carpets. I’d never enjoyed cleaning that much it my life… It was mine. I love it still. It’s a unique feeling. That was a day I shall really remember. “
“I do recognize that it’s the hard work of many, many people, and this house wouldn’t be possible without it. It’s amazing. It’s donations, it’s the work of AmeriCorps and staff, and volunteers of course. Many, many hands put this together.”
Hortensia & Jorge's Family
Before moving to the U.S., Hortensia and Jorge did a lot of research. They were looking for a place that would be safe for their sons, where they could receive a good public education, and where they could find work opportunities. They left Mexico and moved in with Hortensia’s brother in Bellevue for the first few months. After a few months, the family moved into a small, two bedroom apartment that had issues with mold and lead paint.
One of Hortensia’s friends from church was a Habitat homeowner and encouraged the family to apply. “We didn’t know anything about Habitat for Humanity. We’ve never heard of that. And it changed our life!”
It was very difficult for Hortensia; she had to work through the language barrier, and without a car. And even though Hortensia barely spoke English, she did all the paperwork. “That’s what I remember, it was a lot of paperwork. So we went through the process, interviews, and we finally received in the mail the letter, and the phone call that we have been accepted. It was beautiful, it was incredible.”
Hortensia has health problems that make it hard for her to stand up for a long time, so she did most of her sweat equity in the office. After all her practice filling out paperwork in English, one of her tasks was to translate materials into Spanish. On weekends she would work with her husband, her brother, their Family Support Partner, and a few other friends to do sweat equity hours on site.
“So, at the church, we learned about Habitat and we decided to make the big decision to apply, and we were blessed because we were accepted. And they gave us the house with four bedrooms; each one of my kids has his own bedroom. They looked so happy! At this point I’d totally forgotten what my son told me: “You promised we’d have a home.” But he still holds it in his heart, because then when he got accepted to the University—he’s a senior right now, he’s going to graduate—he wrote his college essay, and he talked about Habitat. About how his mom and dad, we made that promise to give him a home, a house, and I never thought that he’d remember that. And he said, “oh yeah, I do remember. You kept your promise.”
“I don’t have the words to thank Habitat… I don’t know if they really know, the impact they had on people’s lives. I always say, if you have a happy family, you have a happy society. This is something that they are doing so well, because I can see it; I can see it quick. I don’t need to wait 10 or 20 years to see it. I saw, right away, the change in my community and the change in my family. It’s a much better place. And they started that.”
Jahna and her children lived in a small two bedroom apartment in Kirkland. “I had a friend, a family friend, they were Habitat homeowners and so they talked me into applying because they knew that I would benefit from it. They were my advocates through the process, too.”
Jahna came out on site almost every Saturday. She finished her hours around the time that she started construction on her own house. Her favorite part of the process was being out on the jobsite, working with the volunteers and helping build her house. “Hammering nails. Being part of the process. And you know, things are a lot different now. Back when we were building, everything wasn’t fenced off. And it was… [getting choked up] I would actually bring my kids, one day a week, and we would come have dinner. Sorry, I’m getting emotional! We would go get dinner, and we’d bring it back, and we’d sit in the house and eat dinner. One day a week, it was very cool. It was very cool.”
“I’ve really changed my outlook on giving and being a part of my community. I’ve really worked hard to put myself in a position where I could be submersed in my community and be at my kids’ school, and volunteer and give back.”
“Just the fact that it’s mine, that’s huge. It’s absolutely huge. But my absolute favorite spot in my house is my little side yard. It’s my little piece of heaven. It’s a little tranquil piece of serenity… I’ve got some bamboo planted, I’ve got some lights that hang, and a nice little patio area. It’s just very relaxing to sit out there, and when I sit out there I can watch the sunset. I’ve got a great view of the sunset.”
Anette and her two children shared the bedroom in a small, one bedroom basement apartment, and her sister slept in the living room. “We called it ‘the hole’ because it was so dark. But we had some very, super awesome memories there. We made it work… [Marciana] wasn’t even in kindergarten and [Luis] was in kindergarten. So I was having to deal with childcare, childcare subsidies, and having to work at a kind of low-paying job… It was damp, dark, and very tight, you know. But it was full of love. We don’t look back on that time and think, ‘oh, that’s when we were poor and hopeless.’ You know, it wasn’t. We have a lot of memories and we celebrated a lot of wonderful times being in that room.”
She started researching the process, filled out an app, went to the meeting, and got chosen! “They only had a certain amount of homes and there were hundreds of people there, literally, you know. And I just… I knew I was gonna get a home! We did a lot of praying. A lot. A lot of praying and we just knew that we were gonna be the ones. And we were! It was pretty amazing.”
She worked on her own house and her neighbor’s homes, which absolutely made her feel more connected. “The volunteers that came out on their Saturdays, when it was raining, and I just looked at them, and I thanked them. And I was like, I couldn’t believe that they wanted to do this. It was so emotional for me that they, all they wanted to do was meet the homeowner. They wanted to meet the homeowner. And hear our stories and to think that, we could all get together and do this. You know? On donated stuff and volunteer labor, I mean, it was amazing to watch what many hands could do in love. And the people that came out in all that weather, I was so filled.” Annette was described as an “overachiever” during the building process. She completed close to a thousand hours, and even after she received her home, she continued to volunteer with Habitat, building homes in Othello Park, White Center, and Rainier Vista.
Annette has been a Habitat homeowner since September 2004. “Being a homeowner, it means I can provide a base, or a launching pad for myself and my family. Being a homeowner gives us security and structure. And them, knowing that they’ll always have someplace to come back to… they can go out there and find their place in the world, but there’s no place like home.”
Jerri struggled to find a permanent, safe place for her family. “I was trying to support everybody on 600-700 dollars per month. Plus utilities and everything—it was impossible. I had four kids, and [I was] working, and nobody wanted to rent to a single person with kids. With Terry being disabled, that was even harder because we couldn’t get a second floor apartment. It had to be accessible to her, and that was impossible.” When Jerri was able find a place, the conditions would be terrible. In their last home, the roof caving in, the floor was falling out, it was “not a good situation.” Jerri and her family were homeless, off and on, for a number of years.
Jerri found out about Habitat online. “I thought I would give it a shot. I thought, all they can say is no, I might as well try it. I was in tears when I found out.” Jerri did not have a backup plan. She believes there was no chance of her finding an affordable home that could accommodate her family. Had she not been accepted to Habitat, “I’d probably still be in the place I was at, or I’d be homeless right now.”
Her favorite part of working with Habitat was helping build the home. “I enjoyed it, which gave me the skills to do the upkeep and stuff now. I’m still learning every day. Everyone was really nice.”
“My daughter and my granddaughter, they can’t believe I can do what I do. I redid my bathroom, now I’m doing my kitchen. And my brother totally thinks ‘You’re not supposed to be able to do that! You’re not supposed to know how to do that! You’re not supposed to own a power saw!’ because I’m a woman, and because I’m his sister. When he comes up, he just shakes his head, but I say ‘If you don’t do it, I’m going to!’”
“This is the first stability that I’ve had. It took me five years to figure out that it’s mine, mentally. It’s a nice feeling, it was overwhelming. Without getting this house my granddaughter wouldn’t have been able to stay with me, I wouldn’t have been able to care for her.”