Building Homes and Friendships
Five empty houses on a quiet street will soon become vibrant homes for five single mothers – all strong, independent women – and their children, 10 in all, ranging in age from 2 to 21.
Several of them met for the first time when they selected their cabinets, fixtures and flooring, but there wasn’t much conversation at that time because “we were all in our own little bubble,” says Linda, mother to the two of the youngest children in the group, five-year-old Surelly and two-year-old Emilia.
Not surprising really. That’s a big day, the moment they look over their options, imagining each room in their own home. Linda says her five-year-old doesn’t completely understand but is very excited, telling everyone they’re either moving tomorrow or in three days. Construction on all five houses is well underway, but no date has been set for any closings just yet.
At first, Nora thought she might take the bedroom in the basement and give the master bedroom to her oldest son, Juan, 21. He laughed when she suggested it and said, “I’ve always been in the basement! Now that it’s finished you’re kicking me upstairs?” Until now, they’ve lived in a rental with an unfinished basement and he’s made do. He never really complained; he just likes to tease her. For the record, he’ll be staying in the basement.
Nora has two sons and her youngest, 14-year-old Diego – an avid boxer – runs in the neighborhood, usually returning with pictures on his cellphone and updating her on any changes that have taken place during the week. She works to earn her sweat equity hours most Saturdays when John, the construction supervisor, is there.
They all prefer to work on Saturday when they can, getting to know him and each other, bonding as they share laughs and work on each other’s homes. They are all crazy about John and don’t want to disappoint him by talking too long. Nora says she plans to make him tamales, mentioning she doesn’t make tortillas before asking Linda if she can. When Linda says she does make tortillas, Nora tells her that every time she smells them, “I’ll be knocking on your door!”
Angela’s son, Carlos, 16, is always there to help his mother and to translate. As her helper, he contributed 75 hours towards the 250 hours of sweat equity she needs to complete before she can move in. Once they do, he plans to use some of those newly acquired skills to build a chicken coop.
All four women are well on their way towards completing their sweat equity hours. One of them – Arely – has already fulfilled her commitment but plans to continue working when she can, cementing those friendships as she helps finish their homes.
Arely and Nora actually work together and have been getting to know each other and comparing notes ever since they realized they were going to be homeowners on the same street. Their houses will bookend the five homes, which are all side by side.
Now, what about the fifth homeowner? The remaining house, in the center, was recently selected by Nyanhial, mother to an 11-year-old and a five-year-old, in part because all the other homeowners were single mothers as well. She’s looking forward to working with them and getting to know them as they all work toward a single, identical goal: providing the best home they can for their children.
Last Christmas, Nora told a co-worker her finances were so tight she felt as if she had to choose between feeding her children and getting them gifts. That co-worker suggested she apply to become a homeowner through Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, going online and printing out the application for her right then and there and taking her to the office to submit the paperwork in person the following day.
A few months later she was selected and since then, her life has been a whirlwind. This Christmas she took her tree into work and set it up in the breakroom. Christmas will be small at home, she says, because she’s saving for their future. “It’s happening because of the budgeting class,” she says.
Linda agrees, saying, “After that class I was able to and knew I could save. That made all the difference.”
It’s easy to imagine a bright future on this street built by these strong, independent, fun loving, friendly women, quick to laugh and ready, willing and able to work, to do what needs to be done. With the support they’re getting from and offering to each other, the possibilities truly are endless.