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Blog #2

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

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With the current state of the economy, it is clear why there is such a need for an organization like Habitat for Humanity. People are losing their jobs and the word they often hear next is foreclosure. Families are in fear of losing their homes and many already have. The mission of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is "to eliminate poverty housing from the Twin Cities area and to make decent, affordable shelter for all people a matter of conscience." They build homes with families who are willing to work with them by helping them to construct their own homes. Habitat for Humanity relies on volunteer labor and tax deductible contributions of cash, materials, professional services and property to build affordable homes for low-income families.
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In the 28 years Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has been in operation, they have built over 650 homes in the metro area. Not only does Habitat built homes for families, they also have homeownership preservation programs. These programs include services such as: counseling, referrals, negotiation with lenders, and financial assistance. Their program A Brush With Kindness offers painting, landscaping, and minor repairs to homes with low-income owners. With the help of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, families are free to focus on parenting, employment, and education. They are given the freedom to make more from their lives than they possibly could have before.

Here is the story of one St. Paul woman's experience with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

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As the levies burst in New Orleans, St. Paul Habitat homeowner Patty Valdivia had many reasons to be thankful for her home.
Her daughter Kay, who was living in New Orleans at the time, lost all her possessions and barely escaped with her life. Kay was luckier than most. She still had a place to call home.
“I told her, come home baby, your room is waiting for you,? said Patty who loves that her Habitat home is refuge for her children. “No matter what happens, they will always have a place to come home.?
Kay did come home for four months — to the Habitat home where she lived during her formative years. After New Year’s Kay told her mom, “While this will always be my home, I must make my own way.? She returned to New Orleans where she is helping to rebuild the Latino community.
“My daughter is so strong — I am so proud of her,? said Patty.
She attributes her daughter’s strength to the challenges her family faced when they first moved to the United States. Patty moved to the US from Mexico twenty years ago with her daughter Kay, and sons Kristian and Kirby. The kids struggled in school, and Kay caught the brunt of her classmates’ cruelty as she was often the only Latino child in her grade. In the first five years, the family lived in various cramped housing situations, including a trailer and a two room basement apartment. They hungered for stability and a safe place to call home.
“It was crowded. The kids were growing up and needed their own space. With two boys and a girl, two rooms were not enough. When I had the opportunity to buy a Habitat home, it was a true blessing,? said Patty.
She purchased one of eight houses that Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity built in the Lyton Park Place development in St. Paul. The family closed on their home in December of 1991. “It was like a Christmas gift,? said Patty. “It was a miracle — like a lottery ticket that we won. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.?
While many memories from 15 years ago are fading, Patty vividly remembers the experience of working on the home, with her kids beside her.
“It was special because we all worked together to build this house, from construction, to painting, to decorating. It was a great time for my kids, for my family,? said Patty.
With the security of a safe, affordable home, Patty was able to concentrate on landing stable employment. She went to work for St. Paul Public Schools as a teaching assistant, where she worked for almost 14 years before accepting her current position as a translator for Hennepin County Medical Center.
“Whenever possible, I work for my community, helping Spanish-speaking people? she said.
From her family’s Habitat home, Patty watched her kids grow up, go to college and build lives for themselves.
Fifteen years later, Patty still sees her home as that “lottery ticket.? As she gets older, she is thankful for the security of homeownership, thankful also that she is not at the mercy of landlords and skyrocketing rents.
“That’s powerful for me. Now that I am old, I have my own income and can afford this home. I can come home and relax after work,? said Patty.
And when disaster rattles the nation, the comforts of home take on a deeper meaning.
“It’s nice to offer your kids a place to come home. We have this house, we have each other, we love each other and we’re happy. What more can you ask for??
Contributed by Sharon Rolenc