The Habitat Home Repair Program is designed to offer Pinellas County homeowners home repairs in four essential repair categories: “Aging in Place” Modifications (ramps or accessibility upgrades designed to accommodate physical mobility limitations), Critical Home Repairs (roof replacement, plumbing, electric, structural repairs) Energy Efficiency Upgrades (insulation, HVAC) and Exterior Enhancements (paint, landscaping). Eligible homeowners will be provided a zero-percent interest loan to cover the cost of repairs, while the loan payment will be tailored to ensure affordability. 

With help from Habitat and a grant provided by Senior Citizen Services of Pinellas County, The Lorento Family was able to drastically improve their living situation after a series of tragic medical events. Read their home repair story below as told by Jaci Lorento:

"In January 2017, our lives drastically changed. My husband of 30 years had complications from gallbladder surgery and suffered a massive stroke. He spent 38 days in the intensive care and 30 days in sub acute rehab. They said that he was going to need to go to a nursing home and I said 'no'.

We brought him home in March 2017 and our family rallied together. You see, my husband and I had been through his cancer 30 years before and I knew that we were in line for a miracle but it would take God’s timing. Prior to the stroke, my husband was very fastidious about his appearance. He showered, shaved everyday and he was always matched from his clothes down to his sneakers! This recuperation has been long and tedious but the one thing that bothered him the most was a bed bath. Try as we could, we could not get his electric wheelchair through the bathroom doors to gain shower access. He did not have enough standing ability to hold on to anything to shimmy into the shower/water closet area in our master bedroom.

We had three estimates on what to do for a handicap accessible bathroom which were in the $40,000 range. We just didn’t have it. We didn’t have hardly anything because not only did he lose his business because of the stroke but he couldn’t even get disability. We were stuck.

I believe I had a divine revelation and I reached out to Habitat for Humanity. I asked if there was any way they could help us. Sean, Pattye and others were so wonderful. They tried different avenues and were willing to ‘think outside the box’. They were able to get a company that specialized in ceiling track lift systems for the disabled to install a system that could lift my husband out of his wheelchair, safely navigate him through the water closet door and into our shower. What a blessing! Now, my husband gets a nice hot shower every day and his morale has improved so much. Not only that but his skin condition and even his muscle spasms have improved. We will be forever grateful to Habitat for Humanity for assisting us in one of our darkest hours. They helped my husband smile again.

Thanks so much!

Chris, Jaci and the Lorento Family ~May 2019

  

To learn more about our Home Repair Program, please click here.

 

 

Wafaa and Alfrid are the proud parents of two sons, Mark and George. The family of four is very close, and enjoys spending time together. 

Mark is a student at the University of South Florida, and his younger brother is going to school at Clearwater High. The boys love playing soccer, going to school and being active. Wafaa and Alfrid work hard to provide for their family, and after being turned down for a home loan, they decided they needed a new path to build their family a better life.

The Bissada-Guirguis family currently lives in an expensive apartment that is too small, with the two boys sharing a room. Wafaa explains that their rent is almost half of their income, and month after month they have a difficult time trying to prioritize between bills and family needs.

After being accepted into the Habitat program, the family felt relief. “I was crying. I couldn’t believe it,” explained Wafaa. “I am very thankful to Habitat and our sponsor, Frenchy's Restaurants”.

She imagines their life will be very different once in their Habitat home. She looks forward to peace among the boys and making new memories together in their Habitat home. “Our kids will have their own rooms and we will own our own home”.

Habitat Home Sponsored by:

Sophia is a hardworking single mother of four children. Sophia works as a CNA/Home Health Aide and loves spending time with her kids. “Anything to put a smile on their face is just amazing to me”.

Their current living situation is far from ideal. Their home is small and overcrowded, with the three sisters sharing one room.

“Being a single mother, it is very hard to afford a decent house for all my kids. It’s even more of a challenge to find a good neighborhood to raise my kids in. I just want the best for my kids and I know it starts with me and the work I put in for them.”

Wanting a better future for her children, Sophia applied to the Habitat program. When she was accepted, she was ecstatic. “I wanted to tell everyone. I had to thank God because I know if it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. It feels like such an accomplishment.”

Sophia has enjoyed completing her 350 sweat equity hours. “I have learned so much! I’ve learned to paint, lay down sod, put in cabinets; and so much I never knew. I enjoyed the landscaping the most, I love making families yard look great. Nothing has been hard, I enjoy every minute.”

Sophia and her kids are looking forward to making their new house a home together. “Habitat for Humanity is an amazing program, all the sweat and tears are worth every minute. Habitat made my dream come true.”

 

The Davis Family's home is sponsored by

Debra Swetay, a single mother of two children, felt a sense of relief when she found out that they had been accepted into the Habitat program. Debra has worked hard to provide for her two girls, Katelin and Melissa, and finally felt hopeful when she got the news.

Their current living situation is unsafe and inefficient for the family of three. The space is small, battered by recent hurricanes and especially inadequate for Debra’s 13 year old, Katelin, who has been diagnosed with autism, sensory processing disorder, anxiety and depression.

“We are virtually homeless, living in a leaky blue FEMA roofed trailer. We have three current leaks in our roof. We have been struggling moving furnishings around to maintain our current living space. Katelin dislikes change due to her conditions.”

As a single mother, Debra has been working to complete her 350 sweat equity hours through build site days and volunteering at Habitat’s annual golf tournament.

“I have had an incredible time getting right down into to mix of things and learning the things which I need to fix a home. I wish I had started volunteering earlier this has been such an incredible experience.”

Debra imagines a better future for her family in the Habitat home. “I imagine being about to offer my children a stable, wholesome environment that they can grow up in”.

Home sponsored by:

The Habitat Home Repair Program is designed to offer homeowners home repairs in four essential repair categories: “Aging in Place” Modifications (ramps or accessibility upgrades designed to accommodate physical mobility limitations), Critical Home Repairs (roof replacement, plumbing, electric, structural repairs) Energy Efficiency Upgrades (insulation, HVAC) and Exterior Enhancements (paint, landscaping). Eligible homeowners will be provided a zero-percent interest loan to cover the cost of repairs, while the loan payment will be tailored to ensure affordability. 

After Hurricane Irma, Caroline and her family's home was left in disarray. In addition to parts of their home being damaged, their fence was completely destroyed. After a year of being denied by their insurance company, receiving repair quotes out of their financial ability, and receiving a code violation notice, Caroline turned to the Habitat Home Repair Program. With help from Habitat and a grant provided by Senior Citizen Services of Pinellas County, Caroline was able to improve her situation. Her story is below:

"To whom it may concern,

We have lived in our home for over 30 years, but the last 10 of those have been a financial stress, as I became disabled, and we also care for our autistic Grandson. My husband had to quit his job to care for us, and we ended up on food stamps and welfare; it was humiliating. Things around the house fell by the wayside, but we managed until Hurricane Irma hit, damaging parts of the home, and completely destroying our fence, which went un-repaired for a year. We got several quotes for the work, but they were out of reach for us financially, and we didn't have the physical strength to do it ourselves.

Then in October of last year we finally got a code violation notice from the city. You can't imagine the panic that set it when we were given notice to fix it within 14 days or pay a fine. Fortunately I called the city and a very nice lady listened to our situation, and that we had tried to save the money to fix it, but were totally unable. Both our insurance and FEMA had turned us down for the repairs. Our insurance turned us down because we had a super high hurricane deductible, and FEMA denied our claim because the bedrooms and kitchen weren't involved in the roof damage (and neither covers fences.) 'Don't worry she said, we have programs for people in your situation, and if you apply for one, the violation goes on hold.' It was a sigh of relief.

About a week later our code inspector dropped by with a Habitat brochure, and I immediately applied online that day. It said we would hear within 30 days, but not two days later we heard from Lutricia Johnson, saying she thought they could help.

They next month (it was over Thanksgiving) we attended an orientation meeting that was literally 20 minutes long. It contained the application and expectations, and we were told to bring it back by when we were done. I spent the next few days filling it out, and copying tax returns, and we dropped it back to her within a week.

About two days later they sent an inspector to evaluate the scope of work, and he very carefully took notes, and photographs.

In early December I caught pneumonia again, and was in the hospital when my husband got a call from the inspector, saying we had qualified to get the most essential part fixed, and he stopped by the office to sign the agreement. There they agreed on December 26th, and we were sitting down at Christmas and both said that it was funny we hadn't heard anything back confirming the date, and went to sleep on Christmas Day, wondering if that present we both so desperately wanted, was actually coming.

Sure enough, on Boxing Day, at around 7:00 am, we heard a commotion in the back yard, with 6-7 men hard at work tearing out our old fence. They got most of it done the first day, and came back the next day to do finishing touches. As an unexpected treat, they trimmed bushes and got rid of years of weeds. Now our yard looks beautiful, secure, and best of all, within a few days, we got a letter from the code inspector, clearing our code violation.

Honestly, the process was as simple as they could have made it. We mostly communicated via email, but the times we went to the office. It was clean and the staff were welcoming. There was clear communication. We were told we would be welcomed back to do more work on the house if our financial situation changed, and based on our experience, I would definitely do so.

We all know of one other person who completed the Habitat homeownership program, and that's what they are known for...but I think few know that they have an 'Aging in Place' program to help us as we age, staying where we are most comfortable. We are indeed most comfortable with the result of this experience, and applaud all those who helped us. We are forever in their thanks. I would recommend Habitat to anyone in need. They are here to help.

Warmest Regards,

Caroline M."

  

 

To learn more about our Home Repair Program, please click here.

 

The Kakure Family is led by Felicien and Violet, who are the proud parents of four children. Felicien and his family came to the United States from Africa (Congo) three years ago. 

Prior to coming to the States, they lived in a United Nations refugee camp for 20 years. Felicien recalls his youth walking through the jungle, afraid of violent attacks and looking for food and water. He describes their experience as “miserable and painful”, leaving them hopeless until they arrived in America.

Thanks to a refugee program of Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, the family learned about the Habitat program. Felicien and Violet were so grateful when they learned that they were accepted into the Habitat Pinellas program. Felicien explains, “There was joy that will never leave my house knowing that our prayers have been answered”.

They worked extremely hard, completing their sweat equity hours and education classes in a record 5 months. They enjoyed completing their sweat equity hours alongside other homeowner candidates. “I am learning many things including how I can take care of my own future home”. 

Felicien looks forward to providing his family with their own small paradise. “I want my family to sleep peacefully knowing that they have a roof over their head”.

Home sponsored by:

Nelson and Maritza Montanez felt truly blessed when they found out they were accepted into the Habitat Pinellas program. 

“Habitat has given us the opportunity to build an affordable home that our family can call home.” The parents of four children, Nelson and Maritza pride themselves on having a happy and healthy Christian family that loves spending time together and helping out those in need.

Ranging from 11 to five, their kids all enjoy playing music, fishing and swimming. For the past three years, the family of six was living with Maritza’s mother. “In these past three years, we have experienced the frustration with the kids not being able to have their space, or their own place to where they feel stable and secure. We all share one bathroom, which is very difficult when you have a big family.”

The Montanez’s have enjoyed completing their sweat equity hours on build sites, at the ReStore yard sale and especially when they were able to donate their time with Feeding Tampa Bay.

“With all the limitations of not having a stable place for the kids to call home and having lots of difficult situations, we have always believed and have learned this: How to become close like a family, how to be able to see things in a positive way, knowing that what we are going through today is just a storm but tomorrow the calm will come and it will be full of blessings.”

Home Sponsor:

Heather Cameron, a family support specialist, felt blessed to be accepted into the Habitat Pinellas program. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity to provide a true home to my children”.

Heather is a single mother to two teenage girls, Rylie and Sydney. Her girls are artistic, smart and funny; they are the reason she has continued to move her life forward for the better.

Their current living situation involves an unresponsive landlord, ongoing electrical panel issues for over two years, a leaking roof, and a dangerous neighborhood which keeps the girls from playing outside or having friends spend the night.

After being accepted into the program, Heather was surprised by her experience completing her sweat equity hours. “It has surprised me how many people volunteer out of the kindness of their hearts. Everyone has been so friendly and helpful. Volunteers are truly happy for me that I am a homeowner candidate. It’s a joy to see so many people want to see me succeed.”

Heather and her girls look forward to making memories in their new home. “I’m building because I want to give my kids a proper home. Our home will be our sanctuary and a place to call our own.”

Home Sponsor:

James and Ciara Walker are the proud parents of two children, Ariana and Andrew. James and Ciara are ESE (Exceptional Student Education) Associates at local schools. Ciara describes her kids as excellent students who both love to play soccer.

The family of four currently live in a substandard three bedroom apartment with several ongoing issues. Ciara explains that since moving in, they have dealt with problems including faulty plumbing and mold infestation. 

When Ciara learned they had been accepted into the Habitat Pinellas program, she remembers feeling “so happy, blessed, thankful, and excited to be accepted into this program. It was such great news. It’s the missing piece to our puzzle that we’ve been praying for”.

“When I think about my life and future and how different it’ll be in a Habitat home, I imagine a happy healthy life for my family and myself. I know things will be different and it’ll be our home. Life in a Habitat home will be such a blessing to my family and myself.”

This home is sponsored in honor of Nall Lumber Co.

Mariam is a hardworking single mother to her five year old daughter, Amarah. Mariam works two jobs and is currently in school to finish her Bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies. The family of two enjoys being outdoors, having beach days and going to the park. Amarah enjoys playing tennis, practicing ballet, and reading.

A few years ago, Mariam and her daughter moved in with a family member to avoid paying high rent expenses and save to purchase a home.

“When I was accepted into the program, I was in complete disbelief because I always had it in my mind that homeownership would be almost impossible.” 

Mariam likes completing her sweat equity hours because she understands the impact that it makes on other homeowner candidates. “I enjoy doing my sweat equity hours because not only can I help another candidate build their home, but I can also learn how a house is built.”

Mariam and her daughter are looking forward to having their own space and a home to call their own.

This home is sponsored by: