Habitat Homeowners Bring Their Dreams to a Skeptical Neighborhood

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

When Habitat for Humanity brought their plans to construct a 12-home development to the Wyoming Planning Commission in February 2001, they were met with a group of residents opposed to its construction. Approximately, 75 residents submitted a petition requesting the project be rejected, citing fears that the 12 homes would destroy their neighborhood and decrease property values. Reluctantly, planners approved the first phase of the proposed Millennium Plat indicating they weren't in favor of it, but legally could not stop it.

Although the approval generated a considerable amount of neighborhood opposition, Habitat officials included those concerned throughout the planning stages to help ease their fears of blight from low-income housing development in the area.

The property was originally purchased from the Wyoming Public Schools with students in the district's building trades program involved in the construction of two of the houses. Each of the twelve homes was sponsored by various organizations throughout the community, such as local banks, churches and businesses. Partial funding of this development was through HUD's SHOP program with participation during the building process by the Field Office Director at the first "Building Blitz", which began in May 2002.

Today the development is a vibrant community and a welcome asset to the neighborhood that once expressed its concern. Two of the families living here shared their stories of what owing a home has meant to them.

[Photo 1: Misk and Heydar Sharif and their children]
Misk and Heydar Sharif and five of their six children on the front porch of their new home

Back Row: L to R Ahamadnur, 14 and Misk
Front: L to R Hindsar, 11 twins-Arafat and Fanusa, 7, Heydar and front right, Amir, 6

For Heydar and Misk Sharif, finding a place to live for a family of eight was not an easy task. Heydar arrived in the United States from Ethiopia in 2000 and began working at a local plastics factory. He was here alone looking to secure adequate housing for his family for two years. Most rental properties were too small and he wondered if he would ever be able to bring his family together again to join him. A coworker told him about Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and their ability to provide homes, so he contacted them and submitted his application. However, he never allowed himself to believe that this could be true, that someone could help him build his own home. Even when Habitat called to tell him he was accepted, he still did not believe. In June 2004 Heydar and his family moved into a five-bedroom, two bath home of their own. Heydar said, "It was a Dream Come True. Not only for my wife and I, but also for our children. A place to play and study for their future."

[Photo 2: Catalina Roldan and her daughter, Ester, 14]
Catalina Roldan and her daughter, Ester, 14 in the living room of their home
When you arrive at Catalina Roldan's home you are greeted with an array of beautiful flowers on the front porch signifying the pride felt by this homeowner. Catalina, originally from Mexico, says she is "Blessed from God to have this house." Speaking in her native language, she talked of praying a long time for a home. As a single mother of seven children, one with a long-term disability, she had rented since coming to this country in 1989 and as her children began to grow up and move away, attend college, and/or serve in the Marine Corp, she continued to desire a home of her own. Renting was a further complication, as the home she rented did not have a ramp, and it was a struggle to carry her growing and disabled child in and out of the house. Finally, after experiencing a fall with her daughter on a visit to the doctor, she sought out a remedy by applying with Habitat in December of 2001. In May 2002 construction began and in September 2002, she wheeled her daughter up the newly built ramp and into her first home. Several young workers from a local restaurant, a youth group and others from her church; 80 volunteers on the first day alone, were involved in its construction. Catalina communicated that she always thought the older people would help the young but the young have shown and helped her and she was finally blessed.

Content Archived: September 09, 2009