Fort Bend’s Habitat for Humanity  builds homes sweet homes

By Betsy Dolan

Linda McClain and her grandson, Tommy, 10, during the Dwelling Blessing ceremony at their new Habitat for Humanity home in Richmond.

Linda McClain couldn’t wait to put a personal touch on her brand new home even though she didn’t officially have the keys yet.

“I wanted to put some white rocks in the flower bed,” McClain said.

So McClain sprinkled the rocks among the red petunias in the newly planted flower beds simply because she could. McClain and her two grandsons will be living in one of four Habitat for Humanity homes dedicated on Sunday in Richmond. Eventually the once vacant lot, about a block away from Pink Elementary School, will be home to seven families.

“Many of our families have never lived in a home, even as children,” said Susan Phipps Carr, Executive Director of Fort Bend Habitat for Humanity. “Many have been in apartments where the children have health issues from unsafe conditions. Many have been staying with relatives and the living conditions are very overcrowded.”

With Fort Bend being one of the most affluent counties in the state, the $1400 monthly median rent for a 3-bedroom apartment is well out of reach for low income families. In January, the Houston Homeless Coalition estimated that 1 in 300 Fort Bend County residents were homeless or living in unsafe housing.

The City of Richmond, which has approximately 25 Habitat for Humanity homes including 17 along the specially named Habitat Lane, would like to find a way to make it easier for the organization to acquire land inside the city limits. One idea, according to Gary Gillen, Richmond City Commissioner is to transfer foreclosed properties the city has acquired through foreclosure, abandonment or the owner’s death to Habitat for Humanity.

“Government can help families with some of their needs but we can’t provide a place where children feel safe,” said Gillen. “A child that feels safe does better in school, considers college, makes better choices and that is something that positively impacts the entire community.”

Last year, 1,900 volunteers logged 29,000 hours building nearly a dozen new houses in Fort Bend County.

The volunteers, many from area churches, donate time, money and materials to build each house, and prospective homeowners are partners in the work, putting in a required 350 hours of “sweat equity” to kick-start the projects. Habitat then sells them the homes at no profit with no interest.

At Sunday’s dwelling blessing ceremony, Linda McClain had a hard time keeping her tears at bay. Her dream of owning a home was something she had shared with her husband, a janitor at Lamar Junior High for 48 years, until he suddenly passed away in 2007.

“I’m thinking about him today,” McClain said. “Owning our own home was something we dreamed about and worked toward. And now I’ve made that dream come true and I’m going to be sharing it with my grandsons so they can have a better future.”

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