When Hero and Bleh arrived in America about four years ago, they thought their troubles would be over. After escaping violence and refugee camps in Thailand, the familysettled in Portland. And while nowhere near as difficult as their lives were in Burma and Thailand, finding an affordable home that could accommodate a multi-generational household has kept them from feeling truly secure.
“When we were in Burma, our challenges were about our safetyand living situation,” said Hero. “My village was burned by Burmese soldiers. Many times we had to run for our lives, living in the jungle, under the trees or in a temporary hut with no food to eat.”
While thankfully much safer in Portland, the family still faces adversity with their housing situation. They share a two bedroom apartment in East Portland with Hero’s mother Lae. “My mother-in-law is disabled and it’s difficult for her to go up stairs,” said Bleh. Along with Hero’s mother, the couple has their two-year-old son Yeeh, as well as a newborn baby. Hero’s assembly job simplycan’t afford the family the space they need; the five of them share a small apartment with inadequate ventilation, faulty appliances and fixtures, and disruptive neighbors.
Hero and Bleh will purchase and help build their own home at Glisan Gardens.Their new home will be completed in 2016, and will be accessible to accommodate Lae’s disability, with plenty of room for Yeeh and the newborn to thrive as they grow.
“When I think of our future home, I picture my family happy, full of smiles. I’ll get to decorate my house, plant flowers, have a playroom for my children, and much more!” says Bleh. “The new home will provide more opportunities for my children to learn. We feel so blessed this home will belong to us.”
Yondella is happy to call the Cully neighborhood in northeast Portland home. She loves that her community has lots of kids growing up in it, and that her neighbors are caring and look out for one another. But when the house Yondella purchased four years ago started having major structural issues, she was worried it would threaten her ability to stay in the neighborhood she loves.
“At first I could see bubbling in the living room ceiling and wall,” said Yondella. “And then water started leaking through. I came home every day worried that my roof might collapse.”
Yondella heard about Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East through her work as a Family Advocate at LifeWorks Northwest. When she shared her housing woes with a client they suggested she check out Habitat’s Home Repair and Preservation Program. She soon learned that the leak in her living room was much more complicated than she initially thought.
“I live in an older home, but I had no idea what this leak really entailed until Habitat came out,” said Yondella. “It wasn’t just the roof; it was the gutters and structural problems with the back porch. It was all these things I had no idea about. Habitat educated me not only on the repairs, but on the health issues too. I didn’t know how leaking and standing water could affect my health.”
Through Habitat’s 0%-interest loan, Yondella was able to afford these hefty repairs, which included a new roof, gutter system, and grading of her yard to mitigate the flooding of her porch and foundation when it rained. Habitat also linked Yondella up with Verde, an organization focused on building environmental wealth in communities. Verde installed a rain garden in her backyard, which will direct runoff from her roof and yard to sustain a beautiful and functional native plant garden.
“I used to get nervous when the rain came because I knew it would mean leaking and flooding. Now, I get excited because I get to watch my rain garden grow.”
Yondella is looking forward to many more years living in her home and in the Cully neighborhood.
“I love feeling connected to my community. Habitat not only helped me repair my home, but it made me feel like a bigger part of the community.”
Every year for the past five years, my family has had to pack up all of our belongings and move to a new apartment. We are chasing safe, affordable places to live and when rents increase, we have to move. This means that my children have had to change schools a few times, which is very hard on them.
I am a Headstart teacher in northeast Portland, so I know how important stability is to a child’s development. Our current apartment has mold problems and it is too small for my family, so being accepted into Habitat’s Homeownership Program brought so much relief. I think it was one of the happiest days I ever felt.
I picture my family and myself living the life that I have been working hard to create. My children will have peace knowing they have their own space and it allows them to focus on their education as they get older.
There are so many other deserving families, and you can help them realize their dreams too.