Habitat program helps families afford houses

Gwen and Jonna Thompson didn’t know if they could afford another mortgage, so a Habitat for Humanity home was not just a home. It was an answer to prayer.Gwen Thompson, a Fort Worth resident who became a Habitat for Humanity homeowner in 2001, said Habitat for Humanity provided an opportunity for a fresh start.

“We needed affordable decent housing, and Habitat gave it to us,” Thompson said, “and we are very grateful for it.”

Thompson said the house was built by a group of volunteers from Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Bedford.

Diane Wolfe, the media relations representative for Trinity Habitat for Humanity, said most of the families needing assistance are working with Habitat for Humanity for the first time.

“We bridge the gap between public housing and rental assistance options,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said, in 2005, Habitat for Humanity purchased property in Mosier Valley, situated in northeast Tarrant County, that will allow them to build as many as 28 homes in the future.

Wolfe said Habitat for Humanity helps the Fort Worth Housing Authority move families out of public housing.

Rosa Perez, payroll specialist in the TCU human resources department, said her Habitat for Humanity home was built by American Airlines pilots, who began construction Oct. 16, 2003.

“I’m so happy with this home,” Perez said. “The volunteers are such blessings – that all these people come to help you.”

Perez said it was a joy to be able to participate in the build with her family. She said she has three stepsons, ages 15 to 19, and a 2-year-old daughter, who stays at home with her fianc‚e during the day.

Perez said her family moved in Dec. 19, 2003.

“Everybody goes out and volunteers and helps out, and it’s such a great feeling,” Perez said.

Perez said working on the site gave her useful skills, such as how to install a window or hammer a nail.

Wolfe said new homeowners sell surplus building materials at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells donated building materials as a way to complete their sweat-equity hours, which help Habitat for Humanity cover the costs of building a home.

“We understand that in order to meet the need that exists, we are going to have to be creative, and the ReStore is one way we do that,” Wolfe said.

ReStore Director Cody Hamilton said homeowners are required to work 30 sweat-equity hours in the ReStore as part of the 300 total required by Habitat for Humanity.

Hamilton said the homeowners are a big help to the ReStore staff.

“We have a really small staff, so we rely on the homeowners,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said the homeowners typically do manual labor such as stocking shelves. Homeowners can bring up to three family members to complete the work.

Perez, who worked at the ReStore with her stepson, said she enjoyed the experience because it allowed her to give back.

Thompson said working toward the required sweat equity hours was not a burden.

“It was fun, and it was productive because it was going toward a home that would soon be our own,” Thompson said.

Matt Owens, FrogHouse student fundraising director, said FrogHouse, a class of 2007 project in conjunction with Habitat, gathered donations from students, parents and corporate sponsors such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, which cost $51,500.

Wolfe said everyone can identify with Habitat for Humanity’s mission.

“We all understand that everybody needs a place to call home,” Wolfe said. “Housing is a basic human need; you can’t do without it.