It Takes a Village 5

Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona 
Is Reconstructing Homes in Chandler

Isabel Duran’s Chandler home of 42 years was falling apart at the seams. There was no heating or cooling, dirt was coming through the rotten floorboards in the bedroom and she wasn’t able to sell it for a good price. Duran was in a difficult situation because she couldn’t afford the repairs or a down payment for a new place. She considered locking up and leaving a home she owned free and clear.

Today, less than two years later Duran, 71, has a brand new three bedroom, two bath home that sits in the same location that her dilapidated house once sat. This was made possible thanks to Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona’s (HFHCAZ) Reconstruct Program that’s geared towards people who own property.

“I knew that this was my only way out and I was hoping and praying that they would come through and they did,” says Duran. “It was the best news I ever got.”

It takes a village to build a HFHCAZ home. The City of Chandler funded a large portion of the rebuild, sponsors such as Whirlpool donated a new stove, microwave and refrigerator and teams of volunteers helped with the actual building. However, Duran was an important and active participant in the process as well.

“I asked them to please make it wheelchair accessible, because my arthritis makes it difficult to get around and both of my ankles have been fractured,” she says. “The whole house is wheelchair accessible with a walk in shower so I don’t have to climb over the tub. They helped us with each step we took. They did everything possible to accommodate my needs.”

Sweat equity

It took six months from the time Duran began the paperwork to demolition day. The application process took about a month and a half and during that time HFHCAZ assessed if she qualified and what she could afford on a fixed income. Qualifying families pay for their home through a no-profit mortgage loan and sweat equity.

“We needed 100 volunteer hours before we started to build. It was very enlightening because I never thought that I could do it,” says Duran. “I could have up to three people help me make those hours. My daughter Victoria would go with me every time.”

The first day Duran volunteered at the ReStores she remembers taking apart hardware for blinds. Typically she worked in the office and was the paper shredder. Her daughter worked in the store sorting electronics, shelving and cleaning. Families can also volunteer at HFHCAZ home building sites if they prefer.

“The time went by quickly and we enjoyed it,” says Duran.

Two other family members lent their hands during the building phase and Victoria volunteered beyond the required hours by helping a neighbor with their HFHCAZ rebuild.

“They were very efficient,” says Duran. “I have never seen anything like this. All of the group, the team leaders, the employees, they were beautiful. In fact we still talk to them.”

Another requirement of the program is education. New home owners attend an orientation before beginning the mortgage application and they also take a series of classes. Duran enjoyed the classes that taught her how to manage her budget on a fixed income and how to make her mortgage payment and still have money left at the end of the month.

A great ambassador

“I like to tell people how to get into the program,” says Duran.

While she may have been the first in her neighborhood to have her home rebuilt by HFHCAZ, she certainly wasn’t the last.

“Our neighbor across the street had her house rebuilt and she’s living in it already,” says Duran. “Another house two houses down will be built this winter. It’s the third house on this block.”

The day Duran and her daughter picked up the keys to her new home is a treasured milestone. She appreciated the ceremony HFHCAZ staffers had for her and she also welcomed the opportunity to talk with a new HFHCAZ candidate.

“We were leaving and she walked up to the car and asked how to get started because she was going to apply. We gave her a short version and told her not to give up. It will happen. She said, ‘Thank you so much, I was scared and not sure what to do.’ I told her not to be scared, they are very helpful and you’re not alone. They are wonderful people.”

Duran has lived in her new house for a year and a half and says it’s beautiful and well made. Her daughter and two children moved in to help take care of her because her doctors didn’t want her to live alone due to health issues.

“I thank God that I could hang in there and get my house,” she says. “And I’m proud of my daughter, she has some health issues too and we will be taking care of each other as long as God lets us. I’m happy. I’m very happy!”

Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona is currently accepting applications for their Reconstruct Program. Learn more about their housing programs, ReStore, volunteering and sponsorship opportunities at HabitatCAZ.org.