Lizet and her 5-year-old son understand firsthand how finding affordable housing can negatively impact lives. Together, the pair has moved apartments six times in three years, with her son having changed school districts twice. When Lizet moved to America in 2001 from Mexico, she anticipated some adversity, but finding a safe and stable place to live wasn’t something she expected. Eventually arriving in Portland via North Carolina, Lizet and her son stayed with relatives when they couldn’t afford a place of their own. “I used to live with my sister, sharing an apartment. She has many kids, which made it very hard in that crowded apartment. We just couldn’t live like that any longer.”
Lizet heard about Habitat through her work as a Program Assistant for family support services at Mt. Hood Community College where she connects local families to community resources and services. When she found out her and her son were selected to partner with Habitat, they were overjoyed. Lizet knows that owning her own home will immediately change their lives. “We will not have to move again! My son will be able to feel secured and safe.”
Lizet is already at work completing her 500 hours of sweat equity. “The first time I was on site I was really nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. But it was easy! People there are really friendly, explaining all the time how to do things or what to do.” Lizet and her son will move into their new home in the Helensview community at NE 64th Ave & Killingsworth Street in the Cully neighborhood when construction is completed in 2016.
“Owning a home, for me, means a lot because it would give security and stability to my son. It would give me a sense of pride that I actually accomplished something,” Lizet said. “My son is so excited. Really, really excited,” she says as she holds up a drawing Alan made of his dream home. “He keeps drawing things and sharing with me how he wants his house to be. He’s already got the plan here.”
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.”