The Onishi Family

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For the past seven years, Pam Onishi has lived in a 440-square-foot studio apartment in Portland. Two years ago, Pam became the primary guardian to her 13-year-old grandson. Even though she works two jobs, Pam cannot afford a larger apartment. The two have had to share the small living space and struggle to find enough closet space and privacy.

“When we have people over, it’s like inviting them into a hotel room.” Pam said. “We sleep, eat and live in the same small space.”

Their apartment sits along a busy business route, and the noise and air pollution further stress Pam and her grandson’s living conditions.

“We have busses, mail trucks, and delivery trucks that run day and night and create a lot of fumes right outside our apartment,” Pam said. “I’ve got a medical condition and breathing the fumes causes my body to work harder. I feel sick and achy all the time.”

Pam wants to keep caring for her grandson and give him all the space and opportunities she can, but it has been difficult to find alternative housing that fits her budget. Pam’s grandson sometimes brings home flyers for homes that are for sale and near his school, hoping that they would eventually be able to afford one of them.

“My grandson’s dream is to have a home,” Pam said. “He has been moved around a lot and changed schools. Now, at least, he is enjoying the stability of a normal routine. But I would love to see his dream come to life and give him the space he needs.”

Pam found out about Habitat while searching for a housing solution on the internet. She applied to the program even though she didn’t think her family would be accepted. But Pam met all of the program criteria for steady income, good credit and housing need.

“I was in disbelief,” Pam said about first getting the acceptance call. “Then I felt excited, very blessed and happy. I told my youngest daughter first, then people at my church and all my friends.”

Pam hopes that because her family will soon have enough space, her grandson will be able to finally live like a normal child and that she will no longer feel sick. Her grandson is excited to finally have his own room where he can study, have friends over and know that he doesn’t have to move or change schools anymore.

“It will be nice to be able to have plants, better air quality and neighbors who also want the best for their families,” Pam said. “We will finally be able to have company over and meals at a table!”

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