I am on my knees, hunched over the roof. I am trying desperately not to fall off the roof while I balance the huge piece of wood, and hammer in nails that I hope are going into the rafter and not poking through the plywood below. Even though this type of labor would not normally be something I would choose to do, I think of the change it will bring for some family. Owning a home can bring such astounding new sensations to the owner, such as confidence, stability, a sense of accomplishment, and independence. These types of thoughts make me want to work a little faster, and pound a little harder.
I look around me and see gobs of people hammering away. The supervisor is barking orders, but I’m not sure many of us understand exactly what he wants us to do. Is he talking to the entire group? Is he talking only to the people on the opposite side of the roof? I have no idea what I am doing. I look up and see a man in his back yard. I wonder what he is thinking as he watches us work. The first thing he is probably thinking is, “What chaos! It’s amazing that any of these houses ever get finished!” He might also be thinking about how nice it will be when these last few houses are finished and the big groups of people invading his neighborhood will finally be gone. Then, the man smiles and waves at us. Maybe the man is just happy to be a part of the South Ranch community. The man might be remembering when he was up on a roof for the first time accumulating his 300 hours of sweat equity.
In this class, we have been reading that gentrification is the reconditioning of a dilapidated, poverty-stricken neighborhood for the use of a more affluent group of people. All around this Habitat for Humanity community, gentrification is happening. New gated communities and large estates are being built along the base of South Mountain, and new home developments are popping up. The Habitat for Humanity neighborhood that is being built is not gentrification. Habitat for Humanity is actually building a neighborhood for those people who could not otherwise afford to buy a house. My class realizes the importance of Habitat for Humanity's efforts. In the past six weeks, this class has seen how a new population will most likely gobble up the South Phoenix community in the next few years. I guess we feel that by working with the Habitat for Humanity project, we are doing our part to preserve at least some of the South Phoenix identity.