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The Families of Carney Place: Chapter One, Meetings

Let’s meet the first wave of neighbors


Brigitte Basham saw the lot where her new house will be built on the same day the Gherasims saw their first wall go up. Photo by Phil Kloer.


The Robles family

At the end of the cul de sac, the new home of Maria and Samuel Robles and their two teenage children is well under way. They’ll be the first on the block to move in, probably in August.

The Nunez family
Rising rapidly next door to the Gherasims is Asheville’s sixth Women Build house. The house is part of Habitat’s program to empower women to build decent, affordable housing using all-female crews.

Maria Nunez, a receptionist at a local hospital, will live there with her mother and young son.

The Basham family
The newest neighbors are Brigitte Basham and her children Cody, 15, and Cheyana, 11.

Brigitte works two jobs. One as a teaching assistant in a small intensive education class for children with special needs like severe autism. The other is providing respite care on alternate weekends for adults with disabilities.

“I might actually qualify”
On the same blustery day the Gherasims saw their first wall go up, Brigitte Basham visited for the first time the nearby lot where her new home will stand.

Brigitte was born and raised in Germany, and still speaks with a slight German accent. She came to the United States in 1989 and to Asheville in 2000. When she and her husband divorced four years ago, her life became much harder financially.

“We (she and her two children) moved into a 70-year-old rental farmhouse that’s very rural,” she said. “I knew it was the limit of what I could afford as far as rent goes. But it’s heated with oil, so that’s a major expense every winter. I couldn’t afford living there, but anything else in this area… it’s just very hard when you make a certain income to get decent, safe housing.”

As her concern about her rent and heating bills increased, Brigitte was shopping at the local ReStore last fall and saw an application to become a homeowner. “I never really thought about being eligible for Habitat,” she said. “So I went online and realized I might actually qualify for it.”

After a five-month approval process by the Asheville Habitat staff and board of directors, Brigitte was in her classroom at North Buncombe Elementary School when her cell phone rang. When she saw the call was from Habitat, she let it go to voicemail; she wanted to wait for a more private moment to find out if her family had been accepted or rejected.

“Either way, I needed time to digest it,” she recalled. On her lunch hour, she listened to the voicemail. Joan Cooper, program director at Asheville Habitat, said the board of directors had approved her the previous night. Brigitte was getting her new house.

Read further: Chapter One: Messages