Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East

Habitat's vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Aug 13, 2014

Home Repairs Change Tune for Portland Musician

Pete, outside his home after repairs
Pete, outside his home after repairs

Beloved Portland musician, Pete, had a problem. This problem wasn’t the type to find solace in a jazzy serenade, or coded into a secret message within a new album. This problem was with the place that he has called home for over 10 years.

Built in 1929, Pete's Cully neighborhood home was suffering at a rhythm that even his talent couldn’t keep pace with, including lead paint and a leaking roof. On top of this, Pete's battle with cancer the past two years put most things in his life — including home repairs — on hold while he focused on recovery. Thankful for his restored health, Pete now juggles paying for past medical expenses and paying for basic day-to-day needs.

When Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East launched the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) in the Cully Neighborhood last year, Pete received a flyer in the mail that gave him new hope for his home.

“There were so many things that needed to be done around here,” said Pete. “It was getting overwhelming and I could have never even thought about making repairs without a program like Habitat’s.”

The exterior of Pete's home was covered in lead paint that was flaking off, exposing the siding and wood trim to the elements. A window in the front door was broken and needed to be replaced. In addition, the existing roof was almost 15 years old and had leaks, requiring a complete removal and replacement of the shingles, flashing and five of the plywood panels underneath.

“Parts of Pete’s home had been going downhill for some time due to the age of the roof and the damage it started to cause,” said Rod Hilkiah, Habitat Construction Supervisor. “If left unchecked, these type of repairs can get costly and require more skill than the average homeowner is prepared for.”

One of biggest improvements needed to Pete's home was one that he didn’t even know about. After inspection, insulation in the walls, attic, basement and crawl space were all below standard, which partially explained why his home was drafty and difficult to heat and keep cool.

“I knew the older windows made it hard to keep the house warm,” said Pete. “But, I also found out the insulation was pretty bad. The upgrades are already making a difference.”

One of Habitat’s NRI goals is to assist current homeowners in the Cully neighborhood with affordable, critical home repairs, like the ones made to Pete's home. These repairs alleviate health and safety issues. Homeowners go through an application process to be accepted into the Habitat NRI program, followed by an evaluation of necessary repairs and costs.

Homeowners receive a 0%-interest loan for the cost of repairs and make monthly payments equal to 20% to 80% of the repair costs, depending on income. In addition, homeowners are encouraged to help make repairs alongside Habitat volunteers and the construction team. Pete utilized the scaffolding Habitat put up outside his house to apply paint to the exterior during his free time, a task that made a big difference in appearance and protection of his home.

“I chose this shade of green myself,” said Pete with a half-smile. “My friends picked a shade that had a more yellow and it was a little brighter, but I think this one suits me pretty well.”

With critical home repairs complete, Pete has been able to move on with his music while also managing smaller improvements inside his home.

“I’m currently working on some long overdue paint and repairs in most of the rooms. When I’m not working on my home, I’m playing gigs around town in the evenings and teaching guitar lessons.”

For more information about Habitat’s Home Repair and Prevention Program in the Cully neighborhood, contact Jessica Jazdzewski (yaz-jev-ski) at 503.287.9529 x30 or email jessica@habitatportlandmetro.org.

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May 14, 2014

Learning Takes Priority as Htoo Family Meets Housing Needs

The Htoo Family
The Htoo Family

When your children want to be nurses, police officers or even doctors when they grow up, how do you get them the education they need while in a refugee camp in Thailand? With great effort and some good fortune you get to America. And then – with even more effort and good people who reach out and help – the incredible happens: you qualify for a house from Habitat for Humanity.

Such was the path that took Loo Htoo and his seven children from Myanmar, escaping their dangerous village, to a refugee camp in Thailand. For five years they lived in the camp, working to support the family and facing many challenges, including eldest son Grai contracting polio and becoming handicap in one arm because the lack of medical help in the camp.

Finally making the long journey to America, the Htoo family lived in crowded apartments where the conditions were poor and the costs high. Grai works to contribute to the family’s income and the younger children are learning English and studying hard. They have already changed schools once since moving here, and Sher, their mother longs for stability in their education.

While talking to a friend about their current, substandard apartment, they heard  about Habitat and decided to take his advice and apply for a home. It was good advice.

“I am excited to have a clean home and room for all of us and be able to stay in one place,” said Sher. “We can have relationships with the neighbors and be a permanent part of the community. Having a home to grow up in will end the children’s fears and anxiety about school and the home will eventually become their inheritance.”

With such a large family, many evenings are spent helping the children with homework and keeping up with the varied outside interests such as volleyball, swimming, and soccer. With five of the children interested in math and science, reaching their goals of becoming nurses and doctors will be a lot easier in a home that has room for all, and the stability the parents have always dreamed of providing.

Thanks to a generous partnership with local homebuilder Neil Kelly along with PARR Lumber, the Htoo’s home will be build as part of Habitat’s Home Builders Blitz 2014 from May 28, to June 13.
Learn more.

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Feb 21, 2014

Rise with the Neighborhood

Steve Messinetti, President and CEO
Steve Messinetti, President and CEO

March marks one year since officially launching the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI). This collaborative way of working allows us to join residents, nonprofits, businesses, local governments and communities of faith to create a shared vision of revitalization within a neighborhood. 

We chose the Cully neighborhood in northeast Portland to pilot NRI because of the observable need. Annexed to Portland in the 1980s, Cully still lacks public improvements like sidewalks and paved roads and has few natural open spaces. Poverty is also a characteristic of this community. Nine in 10 Cully students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and one in four Cully residents live in poverty.

Correspondingly, there is concern around equity and displacement with growing gentrification. The City of Portland offered insight through a gentrification study that found Cully most at risk of displacing low-income residents and people of color. This data tells a story that can be summarized in one word: Instability.

For Cully’s children, a housing cost-burdened (42% of residents spend more than half their income on housing) neighborhood means an unstable life. Kids change houses and schools when their parents are forced to chase affordable places to live. Stability is the key driver of academic success. It takes kids months to academically recover from a school transfer and creates an added workload for teachers. And student mobility negatively impacts all students, even those who do not move.

In response to these concerns, Habitat has partnered with three long-time Cully based nonprofits – Hacienda CDC, Native American Youth and Family Center and Verde – to launch Living Cully; an eco-district, addressing disparities in education, income, health and natural resources.

Living Cully wants to redefine the sustainability movement as an antipoverty strategy. We have already brought together over 60 cross-sector partners to work on stabilizing and reducing poverty in Cully though collaborative activities.
Our vision is a Cully with parks, better roads and sidewalks, new businesses and improved schools. We want to achieve this through investment in current residents, so they are able to rise with the neighborhood.

While we have exciting plans and a foundation in place to accomplish great things, the challenge before us is significant. We need you to join us, with your time and resources to help bring this vision to fruition. I expect this new way of tackling the issues of urban poverty will have significant impact, and is already receiving national attention. With your support, we can achieve this vision and take it to the next neighborhood in need, so that Portland is a great place for everyone to live.

In Partnership,
Steve Messinetti, President and CEO

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