"They came up through the program to build self-help houses." That's what Earl Pfeiffer, a licensed building contractor and executive director of Homes for Hillsborough in Tampa had to say about Hope Figueroa and Jesse Ornelas.
Hope Figueroa, a Homes for Hillsborough loan specialist, grew up in Ruskin, a small community located about 30 miles south of Tampa, and worked for a citrus grower. But in 1999, she joined the Homes for Hillsborough team as a recruiter. Having spending hundreds of hours working to build her own four-bedroom home, Hope was the perfect person for the job. She did everything from digging footings to painting and clean-up.
Jesse Ornales and Hope Figueroa, front and center (wearing name tags), stand proudly with future homeowners who attended a Focus Group Workshop sponsored by Homes for Hillsborough.
Meanwhile, Jesse Ornelas, a Homes for Hillsborough family construction coordinator, with his wife and two children, lived in a trailer in Ruskin and worked for a farmer, and then for a pest control company. When their third child was on the way, Jesse's wife suggested they start looking for a more permanent home. She had seen what Homes for Hillsborough was doing and insisted that Jesse take a look. Well, he did, and it was a great move.
Funding from HUD's Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, known as SHOP, had been used by Homes for Hillsborough to purchase the site and provide basic services such as water, electricity and roads. Jesse and his wife applied to a local bond program for affordable financing. And they worked countless hours on site - from beginning to end. Just before the arrival a baby girl, the Ornelas family moved into their new four-bedroom home.
In October 2001, Jesse was elected president of his homeowners association and was hired by Homes for Hillsborough.
Thanks to Jesse, Hope, Earl and the rest of the Homes for Hillsborough team, along with funding from HUD, USDA and Hillsborough County, hundreds of families are achieving their dream of homeownership.
Homes for Hillsborough is a non-profit, self-help organization designed to help families under 80 percent of the area median income achieve homeownership through exchanging labor for their down payment. The agency also provides individualized housing counseling, resulting in quality living environments for people in family-oriented communities.
SHOP provides funds for eligible non-profit organizations to purchase home sites and develop or improve the infrastructure needed to set the stage for sweat equity and volunteer-based homeownership programs for low-income persons and families.