Thursday was a big evening for Habitat for Humanity of the San Juans — the nonprofit introduced new Executive Director Erika Week and showcased the new layout for its ReStore, which has absorbed its Main Street store, The Room.
For Ivy Revoir, the open house was a chance to share her experience with the community. She will be moving into the Habitat triplex on Park Avenue, along with her sons, Bridger and Hunter.
“I work long hours and I explored every avenue to try and get us into our own home. Nothing worked. I couldn’t get a loan. I don’t make enough money,” Revoir said, in addressing open house attendees.
Alvino Trujillo, an employee at Habitat, happened to be in the automotive shop that employs Revoir. The wife of Revoir’s employer began asking Trujillo about Habitat. She then encouraged Revoir to apply for a home. Skeptical that she would qualify, Revoir applied anyway and was accepted into the program.
“Since then we have had rocky roads. … We have cried. We have experienced every emotion we could. It’s been a great journey. It’s been a frustrating journey but without Habitat we would never own our own home…ever,” Revoir said.
An emotional Revoir paused before continuing.
“I don’t want everyone to think that we get our homes for free. We all have mortgages. We put a lot of sweat, blood and tears into these homes. And blood I do mean. We put blood into these homes also. They are not free. We need help and not just for me and my boys but for other families out there,” she said.
“The need for affordable housing is huge and we are positioning ourselves to be the answer for the median income range that we serve in our region,” Weeks said.
The triplex on Park Ave is currently on a pause. It is tied directly to U.S. Department of Agriculture funding. When the federal government shut down earlier this year it caused Habitat put projects on hold.
“We’re a couple months out from the government closing. We’re trying to pick up the pieces from the impact of that happening to us.” Weeks stated in an interview prior to the event.
“The plan for that money is tied to the triplex and tied to homes in Norwood. That money will eventually come but the timeline for construction has been delay by six to nine months. We’re hoping to get them complete by fall of 2019,” Weeks said
The current mantra for Habitat is “Seven homes by 2020.” The pause in construction has allowed Weeks to transition into her new position and for the Habitat board to develop a strategic plan to increase community impact.
Weeks envisions Habitat as the vehicle for median-income families transitioning to home ownership.
What does that look like for Habitat?
“When we work with our partners in a group format, we would be part of the solution. We can’t do it without our partners and our funders. The ReStore funds our administration so that all of the contributions that come to us go toward the construction of homes,” Weeks said.
“It has to be a community focus and communities have to buy into what solutions we are able to provide. Building for the income range is very difficult because you are dealing with more volatility in the job market, and more volatility in the home and family life.
“Being able to wrap around services for which we can grow in towards home buying education. You have to have the special mortgage solutions for these families that don’t have a 20-percent down payment.”
The notion that Habitat just hands the home over to a recipient is a myth. The homeowners have to contribute 250 volunteer hours. A couple contributes a total of 500 hours. Then they will a receive a mortgage they have to pay.
Revoir’s mortgage is still being processed and she doesn’t know what it will be.
“This has been a painful process as well because I’ve reapplied three times. The first lender let it sit on her desk until it almost expired. The second time the government shut down. So, we’re on round three.”
Despite the delays, Revoir said she is grateful for the opportunity.
“When Habitat called, I just started crying and screaming. When my boss walked through, he said, I don’t know what just happened but I’m sorry. I just hugged him said it’s not; bad it’s good. I drive by that house every single day,” Revoir said.
The exterior of the house is close to completion but the interior has more work to be done. If the Revoirs don’t complete their 250 hours then they will have to complete their hours on another project.
“I work my full-time job and then on Saturdays I would go work at the house. Sometimes it was a nice temperature and sometimes it was 100 degrees and sometimes we worked in the rain. I don’t know if people know what we go through to get these homes.” Revoir said.
Revoir’s son Bridger recalled his mother telling him she wished she could get her own home.
Did Bridger ever think this day would come for his family?
“Yeah when I was like 30. This shows that there are considerate people in our community,” Bridger said.
The Habitat process has given Hunter a new perspective.
“We’ve lived in the same house longer than my lifetime. It’s so sweet. I didn’t think this day was ever going to come. I thought I would be in our house until I moved out. After seeing what the community is doing for us, I would like to do the same for someone else,” he said.
Dennis Anderson is the publisher of the Montrose Daily Press and Alaska Frontiersman. He is a group publisher for Wick Communications.