New homes, new lives in Los Angeles -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

New homes, new lives in Los Angeles

A mosaic sign welcomes visitors to Vermont Village in Los Angeles.

The Kaboom! playground offers fun in bright colors for the children who live in Vermont Village.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony with homeowners and HFH of Greater Los Angeles staff opens Harborside Terrace in San Pedro.

Party-goers chat, eat and admire the duplexes at Harborside Terrace in San Pedro during the June block party.

Alice, her husband, Ruben Gonzales, and children, Alexia, Alecia, and Alvin now live in their Habitat house in Los Angeles. They and 13 other families celebrated with a ribbon cutting and block party hosted by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles.

Volunteers of the Jimmy Carter Work Project 2007 spent their week at work on new houses in the South Los Angeles and San Pedro communities. Other volunteers worked to rehab homes in a project called “A Brush With Kindness.”

The best of people

In San Pedro, 16 families held a block party for their homes that overlook the port of Los Angeles from a hill that used to be a dusty empty lot.

Building their new home at Harborside with volunteers let homeowner Mar’Lyn Bland “see people at their best.

“People worked on my house and didn’t ask for anything in return. Throughout the experience, I learned how beautiful it is to help others.”

Bland, her husband Aaron Atlas and their seven children had been working with Habitat to make their dreams of a home come true.

San Pedro neighbor Edgar Ruano said for his wife Carolina and family: “The whole experience was absolutely incredible.”

The Ruanos had been living in a one-bedroom apartment trying to care for their 9-year-old son, Jonathan, and their baby daughter, Chelsea, who has Down syndrome. The new house has the room they needed to have a therapist work with their daughter, but Habitat has become more than a house to them. They are all very active volunteers, too.

“I probably doubled the 500 [required sweat-equity] hours on our house,” Ruano said. “It changed my life.”

Safe for children

Alice Gonzales said their new home in Vermont Village is beautiful. “So nice and comfortable, beautiful carpet, everything you could ever need.” And her children have a safe place to play.

“We’re still overwhelmed. We’re still numb. We’re like you can see something happen before your eyes and your mouth is wide open, to give you a visual,”

she said laughing.

She and the children had a special Father’s Day Sunday for Reuben, who works the night shift.

Plans for the future

Vermont homeowner Manuel Hernandez said his family already is different. “Our lives changed the moment we were selected as Habitat homeowners,” he said. “Now that we have a house of our own, and don’t have to worry about where we will be living, we can make plans for the future. The process of building our own house has really unified us as a family. This has been the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Green for families

The homes use solar panels, low-flush toilets, native plants and recycled carpet. They’ve earned the LEED certification for these green efforts as well as construction practices, ground water retention systems, high efficiency lighting and programmable thermostats. These features are designed to not only help the environment, but to cut the costs for families for the lifetime the live in their new homes.

Heather Myers and Susan Stevenson of Habitat for Humanity International staff reported this story.