The Warren family -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The Warren family

Stephanie and Paris Warren Sr. are surrounded by their children: Paris Jr., 18 (left); Roman, 14; Jhebre, 10; Shinekia, 16; and Quentin, 13.

Tight-knit family gets a little breathing space

On an unseasonably cold, drizzly day, a family of seven piles out of small sedan and makes a beeline for the concrete foundation of their new home. Without any prompting, the five children and their father convene on one corner of the slab, draping their arms around one another and smiling at the mother, who is still standing at the end of the driveway.

“That’s our house,” said Stephanie Warren, waiting a minute before hurrying up the driveway to join her family.

The Warrens’ home will be dedicated during the 2008 Carter Project.

“We’re all excited and ready to move,” Stephanie said. “The kids can all get their privacy, and I can have my bathroom.”

Their house--four bedrooms, two baths--is one of 126 homes already built or under construction in a Houston subdivision called Umland Park. Twenty-five of the 126 are set aside for families forced to relocate after the hurricanes of 2005.

The Warrens are not direct victims of Katrina or Rita, but rather represent the thousands of families who have been priced out of the Texas housing market, said Ellen Efsic, director of development and communications at Houston Habitat for Humanity.

All seven of the Warrens share a cramped rental house now, which has pushed their obvious closeness and love for one another to the breaking point at times, they admit.

Stephanie and Paris Warren Sr. have been together for more than 20 years, having first met in high school. He’s a truck driver; she’s a security guard and a home health care provider.

“We’ve been through a lot,” Stephanie said. “And we managed to make it.”

On the build site, Efsic escorts the family into a nearby Habitat house in the final stages of construction, telling them it has an identical floor plan to their house. Armed with that information, the kids fan out, staking good-natured claims to their preferred bedrooms.

“This one is mine,” ringleader Paris Warren Jr., 18, said, as he surveys the master bedroom. Dad shakes his head and Mom rolls her eyes as the four younger children--Shinekia, 16; Roman, 14; Quinton, 13; and Jhebre, 10--howl with laughter.

“They’re so excited about this house,” Efsic said. “There’s nothing that touches people more.”

Affiliate Information:
Houston, Texas: 35 houses for Carter Project 2008

Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, took in more than 150,000 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina late in the summer of 2005. Many of those people chose to remain in this diverse and international city of more than 2 million, greatly compounding the need for affordable housing.

Houston Habitat for Humanity, one of the top 20 homebuilders in the country, built 50 houses a year before 2005. In 2006, the affiliate built 133. The following year was an aberration: Because of record rainfall, Houston Habitat was able to finish only 60 houses.

“We’re back on track to build 130 this year,” said Ellen Efsic, director of development and communications for the affiliate. “The need is so great.”

For this year’s Carter Project, Houston Habitat is building 35 houses.