News Archive

Steve Messinetti Spends Weekend with The Carters

This spring my wife, April, and I accepted the invitation of a lifetime – a chance to participate in the annual Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Weekend. This gathering of about 30 Habitat for Humanity International donors and organization leaders provided the perfect environment to learn more about Habitat’s plans, and, of course, spend time with the Carters.

Hearing President Carter reflect on his life and future ambitions – yes, he still has many at the age of 89 – as well as Rosalyn’s successes destigmatizing mental illness were some of the highlights. In addition, the full day affordable housing symposium and session on Habitat’s new strategic directions were also very motivating.

Habitat has grown to be the largest nonprofit housing organization in the world, serving over 4 million people! Much of this success is attributed to the Carter’s decision to volunteer with Habitat 30 years ago, giving the fight against poverty housing a big voice. And as Habitat grows, so must the strategy to take on this fight.

This weekend addressed Habitat’s expansion for greater societal impact. For example, in many developing countries, financing for housing does not exist for low-income families. Because of this, Habitat is establishing a microfinance model called the MicroBuild Fund. Unlike Habitat’s traditional model of building, the MicroBuild Fund provides capital to financial institutions that make small loans available to low-income families for housing improvements. Considering these loans are small, with over $50 million in the fund, this is already having a huge impact.

And here in Portland, while we continue building homes in partnership with hardworking families, it’s vital that we also look at new ways to create greater impact. This means considering new, innovative approaches, policy changes, new products and teaming up with other like-minded organizations so that everyone has an opportunity to live in a safe home.

Thank you for your support in creating a metro area that is affordable for everyone.

Steve Messinetti, President and CEO

“Habitat has opened up unprecedented opportunities to cross the chasm that separates those of us who are free, safe, financially secure, well fed and housed, and influential enough to shape our own destiny from our neighbors who enjoy few, if any, of these advantages of life.”

— Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter

Home Repairs Change Tune for Portland Musician

Photo courtesy of Sara Mayhew-JenkinsBeloved Portland musician, Pete Krebs, had a problem. This problem wasn’t the type to find solace in a jazzy serenade, or coded into a secret message within a new album. This problem was with the place that he has called home for over 10 years.

Built in 1929, Krebs’ Cully neighborhood home was suffering at a rhythm that even his talent couldn’t keep pace with, including lead paint and a leaking roof. On top of this, Krebs’ battle with cancer the past two years put most things in his life — including home repairs — on hold while he focused on recovery. Thankful for his restored health, Krebs now juggles paying for past medical expenses and paying for basic day-to-day needs.

When Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East launched the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) in the Cully Neighborhood last year, Krebs received a flyer in the mail that gave him new hope for his home.

“There were so many things that needed to be done around here,” said Krebs. “It was getting overwhelming and I could have never even thought about making repairs without a program like Habitat’s.”

The exterior of Krebs’ home was covered in lead paint that was flaking off, exposing the siding and wood trim to the elements. A window in the front door was broken and needed to be replaced. In addition, the existing roof was almost 15 years old and had leaks, requiring a complete removal and replacement of the shingles, flashing and five of the plywood panels underneath.

“Parts of Pete’s home had been going downhill for some time due to the age of the roof and the damage it started to cause,” said Rod Hilkiah, Habitat Construction Supervisor. “If left unchecked, these type of repairs can get costly and require more skill than the average homeowner is prepared for.”

Before and After

Pete KrebsPete Krebs

One of biggest improvements needed to Krebs’ home was one that he didn’t even know about. After inspection, insulation in the walls, attic, basement and crawl space were all below standard, which partially explained why his home was drafty and difficult to heat and keep cool.

“I knew the older windows made it hard to keep the house warm,” said Krebs. “But, I also found out the insulation was pretty bad. The upgrades are already making a difference.”

One of Habitat’s NRI goals is to assist current homeowners in the Cully neighborhood with affordable, critical home repairs, like the ones made to Krebs’ home. These repairs alleviate health and safety issues. Homeowners go through an application process to be accepted into the Habitat NRI program, followed by an evaluation of necessary repairs and costs.

Homeowners receive a 0%-interest loan for the cost of repairs and make monthly payments equal to 20% to 80% of the repair costs, depending on income. In addition, homeowners are encouraged to help make repairs alongside Habitat volunteers and the construction team. Krebs utilized the scaffolding Habitat put up outside his house to apply paint to the exterior during his free time, a task that made a big difference in appearance and protection of his home.

“I chose this shade of green myself,” said Krebs with a half-smile. “My friends picked a shade that had a more yellow and it was a little brighter, but I think this one suits me pretty well.”

With critical home repairs complete, Krebs has been able to move on with his music while also managing smaller improvements inside his home.

“I’m currently working on some long overdue paint and repairs in most of the rooms. When I’m not working on my home, I’m playing gigs around town in the evenings and teaching guitar lessons.”

For more information about Habitat’s Home Repair and Prevention Program in the Cully neighborhood, contact Jessica Jazdzewski (yaz-jev-ski) at 503.287.9529 x30 or email

Costs of Housing in Our Own Backyard

There is a lot of conversation happening around Portland’s affordability. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Portland Metro area has the highest home price increase of any city in last 10 years, even surpassing the San Francisco Bay Area! But what does the cost of housing really look like in our city?

The Simino FamilyThe median price of an apartment in Portland is $1,340. For housing to be considered affordable, it should be no more than 30% of your income. This means if you are a minimum wage worker, you would have to work 110 hours a week in order to afford Portland’s median rent. 110 hours!

In Multnomah County, a decent, affordable place to live is becoming further and further out of reach for many hardworking families. Many households are spending 50% or more of their income toward housing, forcing families to choose between paying the rent, paying for utilities or putting food on the table.

The search for affordable housing often keeps low-income families on the move. Families are forced to chase lower rents and better living conditions.

In 2012, about 27.2 percent of low-income residents in Multnomah County moved within the previous 12 month period. Often these moves put family members farther away from their workplaces, and cause children to transfer schools, which disrupts their learning and the learning of all children in the classrooms experiencing the mobility. With Portland’s rental vacancy rate being the second lowest in the nation, many families are also forced to live in substandard conditions, as there are simply no other options in their price range.

Habitat’s homeownership program is one piece of a larger solution that is needed to address Portland’s affordability. Homeownership has a unique role in the long-term strength and resiliency of communities. Through homeownership, low-income families are able to build equity and break the cycle of generational poverty.

A study by Harvard University highlights this dramatic difference in the ability to build equity between people with incomes of $20,000 who are homeowners versus those that are renters. The net worth of the low-income homeowners in this study was $72,750 versus a net worth of $900 for low-income renters, further proving the value of homeownership.

Habitat has seen families pay off their mortgages and create savings accounts, send their children to college, and even better –become advocates in their communities and for other families who need a hand-up.

As the discussion over affordability in Portland heats up, it is important to look at homeownership opportunities to make sure all our cities residents are able to afford to live here.

Foresters, KaBOOM! and Volunteers Bring Families Together with New Playground

A reflection of the bright community spirit at SE 171st and Division Street can be seen in the beautiful play area built on July 26. In less than eight hours, more than 200 volunteers from Foresters, Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East and non-profit KaBOOM! created the new play space, which will serve more than 2,000 children in the local community each year. Over its lifetime, the playground will bring more than 31,500 Portland kids one step closer to having the childhood they deserve.

“A community’s well-being starts with a child’s well-being,” said Tony Garcia, president and CEO, Foresters. “Playgrounds are important to communities, providing an open space where families spend quality time together and where children can play safely. We believe that an investment in a playground is an investment in family well-being, and we are happy to provide the Portland community with a place that families can enjoy for years to come.”

The design for the new playground is based on drawings created by neighborhood children at a special Design Day event held in May when community members met with organizers from KaBOOM! and Foresters to design their dream playground. The drawings inspired the final playground design.

“It really was a community effort,” said SB Langh, Habitat homeowner. “We created a committee, raised $4,500 and volunteered many hours building the playground. We are so thankful to KaBOOM! and Foresters for helping us create a safe area for all the kids in this neighborhood to play.”

Since 2006, Foresters, an international financial services provider, has invested over $10 million with KaBOOM! to build almost 120 playgrounds across the US and Canada by the end of 2015. Over their 15 year lifespan, these playgrounds will provide more than 3 million children and their families with an opportunity to spend quality time together and enhance family well-being.

“We are thrilled that these families will now not only have a safe place to call home, but a safe place for their kids to play and thrive,” said Steve Messinetti, president and CEO, Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East. This playground will truly complete this community.”

Foresters is a founding member of the KaBOOM! Leadership Circle – a group of organizations providing long-term guidance and support to KaBOOM! and its mission. Since 1996, KaBOOM! has been dedicated to the bold goal of ensuring that all children get the balanced and active play they need to thrive because #playmatters.

You can help 31,500 kids in Portland and Gresham have a safe place to play! Support the playground at SE 171st and Division Street by making a donation. Designate your gift to the “KaBOOM! Playground” and your funds will give these kids the joyful childhood they deserve.


Bank of America Student Leaders Spend Summer at Habitat

Fevan Solomon and Ania Warren are young adults with success on their mind. While most of their peers spend the warm summer months taking a break from education, Fevan and Ania are giving back to their community while gaining valuable skills as Bank of America Student Leaders at Habitat.

Every year, each one of Bank of America’s 45 markets recognizes five high school juniors and seniors as Student Leaders for their passion and commitment to improve their communities. The Student Leadership Program allows each student to participate in an eight week long summer internship with a local nonprofit organization and a week long Student Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. This summer, two Student Leaders have been working with Habitat’s Portland/Metro East affiliate.

Meet Fevan

My name is Fevan Solomon and I’m the oldest child of Ethiopian refugees who came to the United States 22 years ago. I’m a rising senior at De La Salle North Catholic High School. I’m involved with several clubs at my school including Student Government, Student Delegates, Heritage, Constitutional Law club, Girls, Inc. and Lasallian Youth Ministry. I also volunteer at Cityteam, St. Francis Dining Hall, the Blanchet House, as well as Native American Youth and Family Center. I hopefully plan to Georgetown or Fordham University to study International Relations.

Meet Ania

I am Ania Warren. I recently graduated from Roosevelt High School and plan on attending Portland State University this fall. Being a Student Leader has opened up the door for me to meet new people and learn what it takes to help others in my community. I’m very glad to be able to use this internship as a learning experience before heading off to college!

Fevan and Ania will finish their summer internships with Habitat in the first few weeks of August. Habitat would like to congratulate them on becoming Student Leaders and thank them for their hard work!

Volunteers Needed for Playground Build Day on July 26

Construction on the final four homes at SE 171st and Division Street is approaching completion in August. As a finishing touch for this vibrant 45-community, a playspace will be built on Saturday, July 26, in partnership with KaBOOM!, a nonprofit that is dedicated to ensuring all kids get a childhood filled with balanced and active play.

The helping hands of over 50 volunteers is needed and Habitat invites you to help build it!

Sign up here to help build a playground in partnership with Habitat and KaBOOM! on July 26!

Meyer Memorial Trust Funds Habitat’s New Initiative With $300,000 Grant

June 30, 2014 (Portland, Ore.) — Meyer Memorial Trust awarded Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East with $300,000, over two years, to help fund Habitat’s new Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative in northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood.

The Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is Habitat’s 5-year focus in Cully.  Through this initiative, Habitat has teamed up with Cully residents, Living Cully Coalition and City bureaus to build a shared vision of revitalization.

Habitat plans to complete 150 home repairs for low-income homeowners,  build 21 new homes that will be sold to low-income, first-time homeowners, and to develop a strategic affordable housing plan, so that low-income residents are not displaced as Cully becomes a more desirable place to live.

The Meyer Memorial Trust  funds will be used to build 21 new homes at Northeast 64th and Killingsworth Street, and provide much needed staffing to support the new, and quickly growing, home repair program.

“It is critical to have affordable housing in neighborhoods where low-income families and people of color are most at a risk of being involuntarily displaced,” said Doug Stamm, chief executive officer at Meyer Memorial Trust. “We are pleased to support Habitat’s housing work in the Cully neighborhood, and applaud their leadership in the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative.”

Cully is one of the largest neighborhoods in Portland, and is the most racially diverse in the state. One in four Cully residents lives in poverty.  9 out of 10 kids are on free or reduced lunch.  42% of Cully families are spending more than half of their income on housing.

The City of Portland just published a study that found Cully to be the neighborhood where low-income families and people of color are most at risk of being involuntarily displaced, because as the neighborhood improves, rents go up.

“Cully could be another story of a Portland neighborhood where low-income residents are forced out of their homes and east of I205,” said Steve Messinetti, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East. “We believe that together, we can create a thriving, prosperous Cully without displacement, by investing in the people and not just in buildings and infrastructure.”

Habitat has already completed 20 critical home repairs in Cully, and will break ground on the new home construction early, next year.

To learn more about the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, contact Danell Norby at or call 503-287-9529 x13.

Four Portland Homes Built in Two Weeks

Two weeks of intense construction came to a close on Friday, June 13, as local, professional builders finished four homes for hardworking families who became first-time homeowners in SE Portland. From May 28 to June 13, 2014, as part of Habitat for Humanity International’s effort to build 300 homes nationwide during Home Builders Blitz 2014, local builders Fish Construction NW, Neil Kelly, Noyes Development Co, Parr Lumber and Schumacher Custom Homes, constructed four homes in Southeast Portland alongside hundreds of professionals who donated their time, resources, expertise and building materials.

For these four families, which include a total of eight kids, purchasing their own homes means an end to poverty housing, and chasing affordable rents, finally living in a place that meets their needs and helps them thrive.

The Simino family, whose home was built by four-time Blitz builder Fish Construction NW, have spent most of their lives trying to help other people feel at home. As long-term missionaries for over 30 years, Robert and Alexis, along with their daughters, have lived and worked in South America, Mexico, Canada, and nine U.S. states.

“I’ve never owned a home before,” said Alexis Simino. “But I can’t even begin to tell you how much this means to daughters and their future. I can’t even remember the last time I had my own washer and dryer.”

In addition to the many hands that helped build these homes, Habitat would like to thank Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Portland Commissioner Nick Fish, Steve Thomas from This Old House, Larry Gluth, SVP, US & Canada, Habitat for Humanity International and all of the Home Dedication Ceremony guests that helped welcome these families to their new homes!

Home Builders
Fish Construction NW, Inc. & Parr Lumber

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Supporting Suppliers and Material Donors
52nd Avenue Hardware & Building Supply, Inc.
Adams Interiors Inc.
Advance M&D Sales
AllScope Plumbing
Ames Contracting Services
A-Team Flooring
Basco Appliances
Better Gutters
Bliss Roofing
Boise Cascade
Buffalo Wild Wings
Builder’s Appliance Supply Company
Central Air, Inc.
Chown Hardware
City of Portland
Clean It Up Mark!
Cleaning NW
Clearwater Properties, Inc.
CMT Surveying & Consulting
Community Financial Corporation
Country Air Custom Homes, LLC
Mark and Angela Crandall
Crescent Electric Supply Company
Crestwood, Inc.
Custom Stairworks
DML Construction
Earth Advantage
Ernie Jette Construction Co.
ESP Supply, Inc.
Everlast Homes, LLC
Fisher & Sons General Contractors
Forbo Flooring Systems
Aaralynn and Adah Frey
Gary’s Vacuflo
General Builders Supply, Inc.
Geoff & Jim Schumacher Landscaping
Globe Lighting
Great Northwest Gutters, LLC
H&H Shower & Glass
Home Certified, Inc.
Hunter Douglas
Vincent Huth
Irwin Tools
James Hardie
JB Insulation
JV Subfloor Specialists
KDL Enterprises, Inc.
Keller Supply Company
Sean Keys
Landscape East & West
Mackeson Construction, Inc.
Malarkey Roofing Products

Medallion Industries, Inc.
Milgard Windows & Doors
Milwaukie Lumber Co.
Modern Plumbing Co.
Moreno’s Granite & Marble
Newton Painting & Property Maintenance
Noodles and Company
Norlift of Oregon
Northwest Commercial Exterior Company
NW Masonry, LLC
NW Porter Works
Old Chicago
Olive Garden Restaurant
Oregon Interiors, Inc.
Oregon Professional Painting
OSI Productions
Petra Heating & Air Conditioning
Pinnacle Plumbing
Plumbing Materials Supply
Portland Housing Bureau
Private Lending Associates, Inc.
Proctor and Gamble
Rainier Pacific Electric
Renner Trucking and Excavating, Inc.
RH&A Painting, LLC
Richard L. Herbert Construction
Robert and Rebecca Burt Family Trust
Roofline Supply & Delivery
Ross Electric, Inc.
Schneider Electric / Square D
Shur-Cut Industries, Inc.
Spooner Construction
Stalcup Roofing & Construction
Standard TV & Appliance
Stewart Title Guaranty Company
Suburban Door Co., Inc.
Sweet Homes Enterprise
Sweet Tomatoes
Taylor Painting, Inc.
The Floor Store Portland
The Mullen Company
TruScapes, LLC
Trustworthy Cleaning
Trus-Way, Inc.
Villanueva Construction, Inc.
Western Pacific Building Materials
Westside Drywall
White Lightning Electrical, Inc.
Winroc SPI
Yale Locks

Watch coverage of Habitat’s Home Builders Blitz on KGW’s Talk Box!

Long-Term Missionaries Find Their Way Home with Habitat

The Siminos have spent most of their lives trying to help other people feel at home. As long-term missionaries for over 30 years, Robert and Alexis, along with their children, have lived and worked in South America, Mexico, Canada, and nine U.S. states.

In 2001 they came to Portland to be part of a ministry that brought in street kids for a hot meal, warm clothes and a break from street life. When their partners in the ministry moved on to other things, the Siminos had to adjust to a new lifestyle. With a lifetime of experience that doesn’t fit neatly on a résumé, they struggled to find work. Alexis eventually found a job at a deli and Robert is attending school to learn new job skills. Their apartment has been an extra source of stress.

“It’s not like having your own place, that’s for sure,” said Alexis, as she explained how their proximity to a busy street has created noise and safety issues, including an incident in which a car collided into their spare bedroom.

The Siminos share their Gresham apartment, which also has mold problems, lead plumbing and very old carpets, with their twin daughters. The ability to give their daughters their own space is just one reason Robert and Alexis are thrilled to become homeowners.

“For us, it will be a comfort to know we have a place for our kids.”

Acceptance into the Habitat for Humanity program has given the Siminos hope for a better future. Alexis is looking forward to freedom from the unpredictability of Section 8 housing and to finding a sense of community—plus her own washer and dryer. Robert sees their future home as a lifelong opportunity.

Thanks to Fish Construction NW and Habitat supporters, the Simino family home is scheduled for completion on Friday, June 13, as part of Habitat’s Home Builders Blitz 2014.

Want to provide a hand up to families like the Siminos? Learn more about how you can help!

Builders Hammer Towards June 13 Blitz Deadline

The walls are up, roofs are on and four home builders are currently halfway towards their goal of building four homes in two weeks in Portland. Four builders — Fish Construction NWNeil Kelly with PARR LumberNoyes Development Co. and Schumacher Custom Homes — along with countless local trades contractors and suppliers are donating labor and materials to build four homes in two weeks during a nationwide Habitat event called Home Builders Blitz 2014.

The event started on Wednesday, May 28 and will culminate on Friday, June 13, when the four families receive keys to their new homes at the Home Dedication Ceremony.

After day one, Fish Construction NW and Schumacher Custom Homes framer Ty LaCroix and his team from DML Construction already had the second story framed on the Kaw/Paw and Simino families’ homes. The second day, fellow builder Neil Kelly with PARR Lumber hoisted wall after wall on a flat slab of concrete until the future home of the Htoo family resembled the exact shape that the family had always dreamt about. Joining the race, first-time Blitz participant Noyes Development Company was installing trusses on day three and drywall on day four on the fully-accessible home for the Loe/Shwe family.

After one full week into the event, all four homes have roofs, weatherproofing and windows installed. While there’s still a long way to go, the progress is undoubtedly quick and energetic.

“By this time next week, we’ll be doing some landscaping and touch up paint,” said Josh Philippi, Habitat’s Director of Construction. “There is a lot of support from local trade professionals that the builders have brought with them. That kind of support helps make rapid progress on site. It’s incredible to see.”

Even though these homes are on an expedited build schedule, the families purchasing them have already put in 500 hours of sweat equity and will make monthly house payments that include taxes, insurance, and principal on the 0%-interest mortgage.

“We are a family owned company and building homes is our business,” Jeff Fish of Fish Construction NW said. “This is our fourth Blitz home and it’s a great pleasure to be a part of this event. Seeing a family’s joy when the home is complete is worth all of our hard work.”

The Home Builders Blitz is a Habitat for Humanity International event happening simultaneously across the nation, with a goal of building 300 homes and helping hundreds of families and children escape substandard housing and become proud Habitat homeowners. To date, 1,067 homes have been constructed nationwide in connection with Habitat’s Home Builders Blitz efforts.

Join Habitat as we celebrate the completion of four homes and Home Builders Blitz 2014. Learn more.

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