Habitat home: At the door of a new life
Work continues at the latest Habitat for Humanity work site, where crews of pros and volunteers work to finish a house for a low-income family from the area, the Castros from White Trail Road.
The house, located on D Street NW will not be free to the family, contrary to popular belief.
“It’s a myth that we give houses away,” says the project manager Don Mead from Upper Columbia Basin Habitat for Humanity. “Habitat’s never done that. Some people on TV do that, but Habitat has never given houses away.”
Instead, Habitat scores a principal-only mortgage for the new homeowners, who then proceed to build “sweat equity,” with hours of work helping build their future home. As a result, they can take pride in their homeownership, more so that if it had just been a gift.
The Castro family has worked mostly on weekends on their new house, said Juan Castro, the family’s patriarch. He likes carpentry work, so this has been fun in a way, he said.
The house on D street is located around two other Habitat houses from years ago, Mead said. It has three bedrooms, for a family of four. Businesses like Ephrata Plumbing and Polhamus Heating and Air cooperate by offering good rates for their work. Nevertheless, the finish date remains flexible, given that a large part of the folks working on the home are volunteers.
“Some days stuff happens in a hurry, and some days it moves slowly,” Mead said, adding that Habitat does not pay for things like garbage disposal units or dishwashing machines, but they will install them if one shows up. And one always shows up, he quipped.
“The family always seems to find the money to buy a dishwasher to have one put in,” he said with a smile. Mead said he has worked on four Habitat homes and they all had a dishwasher when the new homeowners moved in.
The Castros’ existing home is sub-standard, Mead said. Juan and Maria Castro live on an old trailer on the same farm where they work, with their two daughters, ages 17 and 20. This was their last year in the trailer, which will be removed and replaced. If their application to Habitat had not been accepted they would have had to find a new place to live.
Returning home was not an option, Juan said.
A resident of Washington for 12 years, and a native of the state of Jalisco in Mexico, Castro first arrived in California, where the plan was to stay a little while and then return home. That was 20-plus years ago.
“The kids are grown,” Castro said in Spanish, “They are not willing to trade in their lives for that kind of life. They travel with us and they think it’s pretty, but living there, it’s different.”
Maria says she has liked everything about the construction of the house. The first thing she will do when the house is ready is invite everyone who worked on it to have dinner at the new place.
“We will have a meal and thank God that we have a home,” Maria said in Spanish. “And thank those who helped us.”
By Sebastian Moraga, firstname.lastname@example.org