Learning From South Phoenix



Free Houses- Well, Not Exactly



            As painful as it was to drag my very exhausted body out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, I still felt a slight exhilaration humming just below the surface of my skin.  This is because I know that I am about to embark on a new adventure, something I would likely have never had the time or courage to do on my own.  This is the day that we traveled to Villas Esperanza in South Phoenix to help build a Habitat for Humanity house.  It was an especially cold morning, cold enough to need three layers of clothing and still be miserably chilled.  The sun rose higher and higher in the sky as we approached the development as my excitement rose along with it. 

            When we got to the work site, I was quickly taught that there would be no mistakes allowed.  Although these houses are built specifically for low-income families, they still must be able to be habitable by humans.  As I would later learn from spokeswomen for the local chapter of Habitat, these house are definitely not built to be given away as I always had understood it to be.


            As we hammered and sawed the morning away I kept wondering and asking various people around the construction site how these houses were divvied out to the families who would eventually come to call them home someday.  I never got an answer other than, “Just wait, you will find out later.”

            When later came, I was quite surprised to learn that the families who would live in these developments had to go through many twists and turns and requirements to live there.  One of the requirements is the ability to pay and probably one of the most crucial requirements was that the gross household income must be between 30% and 65% of the median income for the Phoenix area for the past two years.  They must also have a two-year history of stable income and employment and an acceptable history of credit and paying bills on time.  Out of all of the requirements (there are many more) the most surprising one for me to learn about was that the families who move into these houses must be willing to partner with Habitat for Humanity for at least four hundred hours of volunteer time.  This does not mean passing out flyers or sitting on the phone for that time.  It means that they must WORK and sweat for those four hundred hours to help another low-income family realize their dream of owning their own home too.  They must do things such as trussing a roof, painting, putting up drywall, gardening, etc. 

            Our Habitat for Humanity developments in South Phoenix are quite unique.  Although there are homes built in eighty-nine countries, they only go up one at a time in different neighborhoods.  Here in Phoenix we have one full-scale development devoted strictly to Habitat and one more nearly finished.  This is something that has never been done before.  Our speakers gave us some background information on why this opportunity to build on such a large scale.  Missy, Noelle, and Debra informed our class that it began with a philanthropist by the name of Jerry Bisro.  In 1992 he made it possible to create an entire community of Habitat houses by purchasing a large plot of land that slipped through the fingers of another developer.  Now that this idea has been proven to work, there are other areas of the nation that are starting to follow this plan that was first tested out on South Phoenix.  They have found that it is an asset to the community at large rather than a hindrance, which was the original argument against it.  I am proud to say that Arizona was brave enough to give it a chance, to become a trendsetter, so to speak.  I am thankful for our speakers representing Habitat for Humanity locally for donating time out of their busy schedules to come and educate us on this great cause.  I do hope in the future I may have the chance to give more of my time to help a family build a dream.     




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