"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."
- Mark Twain
At least 30% of families in the San Fernando Valley live below the poverty line. In Pacoima, more than 40% of families earn incomes under $15,000. 75% have no healthcare. Many of these families are comprised of hard working adults who are nurse aides for the ailing, teacher's aides at preschools, bus drivers, waiters, and hotels workers. They are families of four living in a garage, or with other families in a small apartment.
A House is a Home
Habitat For Humanity, founded by Milliard and Linda Fuller in 1976, has built or renovated more than 200,000 houses worldwide, providing homes for over a million people. Donna Deutchman, the Executive Director/CEO for a local Habitat, is an Angel Among Us for her work in helping these hardworking families achieve the American dream.
Hope For Families
Deutchman states "Imagine waking up everyday, going to work and not having anything to show for your labor. You live with another family to share the cost of high rents in Los Angeles. Parents believe they are doing the right thing by going to work everyday, yet never have enough money. How do these parents show their children the importance of work, and being productive, when all they see is the inequality of life?"
Habitat gives these families the tools to own a home. Working with their parents and community in building their home, children realize people care about their future. That message goes into the Pacoima school system and makes a big difference.
This is not a handout. Hard working families apply and attend Habitat for Humanity educational workshops. Selected families must put in 500 hours of "sweat equity" building their home, and working on their neighbor's homes. "These homes typically cost $200,000, with a no-interest loan," says Deutchman. Homeowners are paying less than they would for a one-bedroom apartment or a garage. "They are obligated to pay 33% of their income for mortgage, taxes and insurance." These houses cannot be flipped in a hot real estate market. Families are encouraged to live in their home for 30 years and pass the home to their children. If they move, the home must be sold to a low-income family who qualifies for Habitat housing.
Six months before and after they move in, Habitat partners with social services to ensure families have everything they need. Children receive health insurance and homework assistance. AT&T gives two years of free Internet service and a computer. Blue Shield mentors train families on the Internet. "All of these services add to the homeowners self-sufficiency," said Duetchman.
One of Habitat's success stories is from a father who moved into a Habitat home fourteen years ago. He recently called Donna to share news about his 26-year-old son. Living in a Habitat house and receiving all of the tools needed for this family to succeed helped his son graduate high-school, graduate from a Cal State college, find a full-time job, and save money for a down payment on a home in Palmdale.
If you wish to get involved with the local Habitat for Humanity in San Fernando Valley/Santa Clarita Valley or donate money for more homes to be built, contact Donna Deutchman at 818-884-8808, or email her at DeutchmanD@yahoo.com.