Habitat welcomed 26 newly selected families in January, the largest group of partner families accepted at once in the program. Out of over 100 completed applications received in the fall of 2010, over 50% qualified for Habitat’s homeownership program. Through a process carried out by Habitat’s Homeowner Selection Committee, the goal was to select families to buy the homes currently scheduled for construction in 2011.

The families had a chance to meet each other at a gathering in January. Emotions ran high for families as they met other partner families who could identify with the struggle of needing a safe place to call home. Some were overwhelmed that they were accepted, some nervous about the next step in the program. Lun Niang, whose family of four was selected, said she was glad to have brought their youngest daughter, who had never been in a room with such a diverse group of people. The more the families shared their stories, the more the group began to realize that they all had very similar hopes and opportunities to help each other succeed.

The group of 26 newly selected partner families gather for an orientation meeting in January and to meet their new neighbors!

When Michelle Hall found out she was in the Habitat program she felt relief and happiness.

“Habitat will give us a place of our own where my kids are always welcome and we won’t have to move anymore,” she said. Hall is a single mother of a son, Noah, with special needs, and a daughter, Emily. Her children have had to switch schools four times because they have had to continually move to find affordable housing that fits the needs of their family.

The next step for these families is completing their 500 hours of sweat equity, a requirement for all partner families.

“Sweat equity is the one thing that causes anxiety for our partner families,” said Matina Kauffman, Homeownership Program Manager. “They don’t know how they are going to get it done while balancing work and kids. We show them that it is achievable and support them by helping them create a plan.”

Families can choose a variety of ways to accrue hours. Working on site is one way to help homeowners understand more about their future home and give them the chance to work alongside their future neighbors. Families can also accrue hours at the ReStores, in the office or at Habitat events.

Michelle is excited to get started on accruing her sweat equity. Drawing on past experiences in construction, she plans to help in the Habitat office by acquiring building materials.

Although it is still early in 2011, interest in affordable homeownership via phone, office walk-ins, online and at events hasn’t showed any signs of slowing this year. The need for affordable housing in our community is rising and Habitat is working hard to meet the demand.

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