When Judith Sosa Carcoma first approached Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East for help, she was worried. She held a letter from her insurance company notifying her that if she was not able to make repairs to her home, her coverage would be canceled. The roof needed to be replaced and several tree branches hung precariously overhead. Judith was able to find someone to remove the branches, but there was still the roof. Roof repairs are among Habitat’s most frequently requested repair projects and often the most critical. Roof replacements can potentially cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on roof size and project complexity. Unfortunately, for many low-income homeowners, this critical repair need can often be out of reach. Through Habitat’s home repair program, homeowners are able to make these and other repairs to their homes. Judith was selected for our program and we were able to replace her roof and deconstruct the deteriorating back porch.

Participants in Habitat’s home repair program receive a deferred 0% interest loan and complete between 8 and 20 hours of sweat equity depending on project cost. Judith is no stranger to hard work. Like many in Cully, Judith immigrated from Mexico. She grew up in Veracruz, a state located along the country’s southern tip bordering the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an area renowned for its beautiful beaches and rich history. She recalls fondly her childhood there and family gatherings and events. A lack of job opportunities drove Judith and her mother to the United States, where they first settled in Southern California and eventually made their way north to Oregon. Judith recalls at times working three jobs, remarking, “I tried to work hard to help my family.” She credits her strong work ethic to her mother, who frequently comes to visit from Mexico and helped Judith complete her sweat equity hours.

Since being selected for Habitat’s home repair program, Judith has taken an active role in her neighborhood, participating in community events and regularly attending meetings of the Cully Housing Action Team (CHAT). CHAT meets monthly to discuss issues relating to housing affordability and anti-displacement in Cully. She was able to complete the majority of her sweat equity hours through her involvement in community activities and events and speaks often about the difference that her recent involvement has made in her life. “I feel different,” Judith says. “I lived here for 15 years and never talked to anyone.”

Recently, a few blocks away from Judith’s home, a group of neighbors designed an intersection painting. On a sunny mid-July day, they gathered to paint the intersection and share tamales, barbeque, and strawberry rhubarb cobbler. The design is a rainbow butterfly and represents migration, diversity and inclusion. Its brilliant colors are a stark contrast to the dull gray asphalt. Judith, along with her mother, stand next to the freshly painted intersection along with the new community they’ve found.