Stability gives family a chance to thrive
Two years after moving into their NSP2-assisted, rehabilitated home in Naples, Florida, the Torres family cherishes the stability — and square footage — the home has given them.
By Julie Gurnon
A year before they became homeowners, Jocie Beebe; her husband, Daniel Torres; and their four children were homeless.
They had been living in a rental property in Jacksonville, Florida, when Torres’ hours as a fire sprinkler system technician were cut drastically. Unable to pay the rent, the family moved to Naples in December 2009, and into his mom’s three-bedroom home.
At the time, all the children were 5 or younger. Beebe remembers how difficult it was to live in such crowded conditions.
“The three oldest were sharing a bedroom,” she said, referring to Alessandra, Jorge and Luis, now ages 8, 7, and 4. “Me, my husband and Juli-Ana (now 3) were sharing another bedroom. She had to sleep in a baby swing because the room wasn’t big enough for a crib.”
Torres soon got a job in the same line of work with another company. But finding decent, affordable housing in Naples was even harder than in Jacksonville.
According to the National Housing Conference, Naples is the 39th highest-priced homeownership market and the 44th highest-priced rental market out of 208 metropolitan areas. The average home price is $201,000. Fair-market value for a two-bedroom rental property is $1,049 per month(1). That is quite a bit higher than in Jacksonville, which has an average home price of $128,000 and a fair market value of $834 per month for a two-bedroom rental.
Fortunately for Torres and his family, Naples is home of Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, one of seven U.S. affiliates partnering with Habitat for Humanity International in the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The international office was awarded a $137.6 million grant from the second round of the program, known as NSP2.
The three-year grant term began in February 2010. Collier County Habitat used NSP2 funds to acquire 100 foreclosed and abandoned homes in Naples, and then used private funds to rehabilitate the homes.
The Torres family jumped at the opportunity. Once accepted into the program, the quest to perform 500 hours of sweat equity began, with Beebe contributing the most.
She worked Monday to Thursday and Saturdays, installing roofing, siding and tile.
“Oh, yeah, I did a lot,” she said. “I even outdid my husband.”
She laughs when she recalls how the construction supervisor left her in charge of teaching her husband how to install the siding. When he asked her if she knew what she was doing, she responded reassuringly: “I’ve been doing this for a while. We’ll be OK. Don’t worry; we’ve got this.”
The big day finally arrived on Dec. 15, 2010, when the family moved into their three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Naples Manor. The first thing Beebe did was unpack all the Christmas decorations and set them up before the kids got home from school.
Nearly two years later, the family is thriving. Torres’ job is going strong, the three oldest children attend Parkside Elementary nearby, and Beebe has also returned to school, studying accounting and business management.
Time hasn’t diminished the couple’s gratitude to Habitat for Humanity of Collier County. They are most grateful for “just the stability of it,” Beebe said. “It’s made everyone so much more comfortable, not having to worry about having to change schools or moving ever again.”
(1)National Housing Conference, Paycheck to Paycheck database for the first quarter of 2012, accessed Nov. 12, 2012, http://www.nhc.org/chp/p2p/
Julie Gurnon is NSP2 writer/editor of editorial services for Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Georgia.