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:

Amiya Flournoy, a hardworking and independent single woman, has been struggling to find an affordable apartment to rent and is looking forward to owning her own home.

She had a bad living situation where her roommate got them both kicked out of their apartment. Amiya only had seven days to find a new apartment and ended up having to use all of her savings to move. Her current apartment is expensive and she has had issues with maintenance.

“I look forward to owning my own Habitat home so I don’t have to worry about renting anymore.”

Amiya is very close with her family, “When it comes to family, I am dedicated and willing to do almost anything.” She is excited to have her own space where she can decorate to her own taste and host her family for dinners and holiday gatherings.

When Amiya first found out she was accepted into the Habitat homeowner program her first thoughts were, “I would finally be able to own my own home! I’m very nervous but excited at the same time.”

Sharon Roundtree is a single mother to her five children. She has worked in the medical field as a CNA and home health aide for the past 16 years. Her kids love acting, drawing, dancing, and spending time together.

Sharon explains that their current living situation is far from ideal for a family of six. Their apartment is quickly become outgrown and the entire family is excited to move into their forever home.

When she found out that they were accepted into the Habitat Pinellas program, Sharon said she was so excited that it brought tears to her eyes. “This means so much to me, especially for my kids future”.

Sharon imagines a bright future for her and her children in their new home. “It will be different because I will have a home of my own that my kids can grow up in.” She is excited for her kids to have a backyard of their own to grow and play in.

This home is sponsored by:

Anne and Genovevo live in a small two bedroom, two bathroom home with their two children, Roxanne and Nathan, and another housemate. The family of four love to embrace their Cuban heritage by speaking Spanish in their home, enjoying family recipes and drinking Cuban coffee. They value family time with their kid’s grandmother and try to visit Cuba often.

The family’s current living situation is not ideal. Roxanne and Nathan are currently sharing a room, which is becoming more challenging due to their ages especially with Roxanne entering her teenage years.

“That’s why the Habitat program is a blessing for us, the last opportunity to have our own home, where my kids can grow up and my husband can age with no concerns about stability and with a decent roof over us.”

While it has been difficult to earn sweat equity hours with work, school and family, Anne knows it’s an important part of the process. “Learning some construction skills, learning how your home is made is definitely something very valuable and will save us a lot of money in the future.”

“Being able to have our own home, being able to pay for it without sacrificing the things we value most, it’s going to make a great difference. It will contribute to our family strength, to our faith in God’s promises and in the love of other people, and in their lives as well. This goes beyond the roof and the walls, it is an exercise of love, gratitude and perseverance.”