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Applying to Habitat was a life-saving decision -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Applying to Habitat was a life-saving decision

Four years after moving in, Latasha Howard enjoys her Habitat home with four of her children: (from left) Samaad, Aamira, Aarionne and Aaquila.
Her oldest daughter, Aache, attends Washington State University. ©R.D. Willis/Special


As dusk falls, the Howard family tosses around a ball outside their home. ©R.D. Willis/Special


Series homepage: Why We Build


Happy and healthy again, my family can focus on education and paying it forward

By Latasha Howard

If I hadn’t moved into my Habitat house, I don’t think I’d be alive today.

Oct. 18, 2008 — I remember the date. That’s when my kids and I moved in.

Before that, we lived in an old, drafty, moldy house we rented in Tacoma, Wash. I have severe asthma, which was aggravated by living in that house. I had to take steroids and I was on oxygen all the time. I was hooked up to one of those big tanks, even when I was cooking.

My doctors installed a central line, which is a tube that went into my body so I could administer my medications myself. But because of the mold and the dampness in the house, the incision kept getting infected. I ended up with septicemia, a bloodstream infection, four times when I lived in that house. I probably spent about half of the three years we lived there in the hospital with infections. The longest stretch was 22 days.

My doctor told me I needed to have a living will for my kids. That’s no way to live when you’re 35.

I have five children — Aache, who is 18; Aaquila, 15; Aamira, 14; and twins Samaad and Aarionne, 12. They were all on steroid inhalers for breathing problems because of the mold. They kept a bag packed, because they knew if I got sick and had to go to the hospital, they would have to stay with a friend.

The rental house was really tiny and it was embarrassing to live there. Even after we cleaned it, it was still just a yucky house. When the people from the Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity affiliate came out to visit me after I applied for a Habitat house, one of the women put her foot right through my porch because the boards were rotted. The laundry room was so damp that we had slugs all the time. The wood in my bedroom furniture was soft because of the dampness.

But I didn’t have the money to go anywhere else.

Building on Faith

A nurse from my pulmonologist’s office knew about Habitat for Humanity and urged me to apply. I was reluctant, because at that point, I was sure I was going to die soon. But she helped me with the application and went through every step with me.

My home was the Building on Faith Home for 2008, which means that a group of churches came together to build my house. When it was completed, I had to miss the dedication because I was in intensive care in the hospital with an infection, fighting for my life.

When we finally got to move in, I had to throw away everything I owned except my TV and some dishes because of the mold. Even my clothes were moldy. We got a dumpster and just threw everything in.

In the old house, my kids were embarrassed to have friends over. Now our house is the hang out spot for my kids and their friends. They love to come over.

We have block parties in the summer where everyone brings a dish and we just hang out and enjoy each other. I have a neighbor who mows my grass sometimes without my even asking. We are a community that I could never have imagined being blessed to live in.

Next: Healthy at home, back in school
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