RANDOLPH, NJ- Habitat for Humanity has shown that building homes does more than put a roof over someone’s head. In clean, decent, stable housing:
- Families can provide stability for their children.
- A family’s sense of dignity and pride grows.
- Health, physical safety, and security improve.
- Educational and job prospects increase.
Right in Morris County there are thousands of families who have jobs and work hard, but still can’t pay for their basic needs. Recent figures indicate that 21% (38,175) of Morris County households are working, but unable to afford basic necessities. Morris Habitat is committed to help these people – one home at a time.
The stories which follow demonstrate how the lives of hardworking families are enhanced and strengthened, once they are able to own an affordable home.
The Moore’s – Peer Place, Denville
Homeownership does change lives. It lifts families out of poverty housing and helps them achieve financial stability. Just as important, homeownership gives families security and the pride that comes from building and paying for their own homes. It is the foundation of strong, vibrant communities.
Morris Habitat’s partner families tell us this time and time again—families like Charles and Veronica Moore, who moved into their Morris Habitat home on Peer Place in Denville in 2013. Veronica said homeownership has transformed their lives in countless ways.
Their three-bedroom townhome offers considerably more space than their cramped former apartment. They no longer have the constant inspections that come with living in a subsidized home. And there’s a basketball court out back where their 14-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son play while Mom keeps an eye on them from the house. To complete their 300 hours of required sweat equity, Charles, who has worked for the Morris County Mosquito Commission for 10 years, helped build their home every weekend. Veronica did clerical work for Morris Habitat.
The Moore’s were offered housing authority assistance to help pay for their home, but they turned it down, opting to pay their mortgage on their own. For the Moore’s, homeownership also has meant they have peace of mind and financial independence.
“Charles helped build his own home from the ground up,” Veronica said. “He’s very proud to be able to say that.”
The news that they were selected and Morris Habitat would build their home came at the worst moment for any parent. About six weeks earlier, they had learned that their daughter was seriously ill with leukemia.
While their home was being built, their daughter received intensive medical treatments and missed an entire year of school. Veronica oversaw her care, which included numerous hospital stays and doctor visits. Charles helped build the home every weekend to complete his sweat equity. Thankfully, their daughter has been in remission for a year.
“The most rewarding thing is to see how much joy our house brings my children,” Veronica said. “It’s an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction to hear them say, ’This is my home.’ I’m so overly grateful that there are people out there who don’t mind taking the time to help other people. They’re amazing.”
The Lanchipas - Collins Avenue, Jefferson
Shortly after Ada completed a bachelor’s degree in law in the Dominican Republic, she fled from an abusive husband, leaving two young sons with her parents. Ada arrived in Dover, New Jersey, distraught and unable to speak English. She found work as a hairstylist and enrolled in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class.
Helar Lanchipa attended college in Peru for a degree in engineering telecommunications before dropping out to help his father in the family auto parts store. Helar had observed that even college graduates had a hard time finding employment in Peru. Figuring that life in the United States might offer him opportunities that would never present themselves at home, he also made his way to Dover, New Jersey. Without knowing English, he found Spanish-speaking friends and a provisional job in hospital maintenance. Most of Helar’s work could be done without English, except that he was always on call via a walkie-talkie. A friend advised him to answer every walkie-talkie call with the English words “Go ahead!” Although that led to some unfortunate results when he failed to attend to urgent maintenance requests, his excellent work earned him a permanent position on the staff.
Helar resolved to learn English. He sought out American friends, stopped watching Spanish TV, and enrolled in an ESL class where he noticed an earnest young woman named Ada. They became good friends, and the friendship led to marriage. The family quickly expanded with the birth of their daughter Ashley and the arrival of Ada’s sons German and Ryan from the Dominican Republic in 2001. Ada left her hairstyling position to care for the children. Two years later, Kevin was born.
The Lanchipas could not maintain their Dover apartment and family on one salary, so they moved to the Sussex Interfaith Shelter. There they began to receive help from the Housing Authority, including rent assistance for a house in Jefferson. In 2005 they applied unsuccessfully for a Morris Habitat for Humanity house. Undeterred, they applied again in 2007, and their names were drawn by lottery for the next house to be built—in Jefferson!
Helar wasted no time in starting the family’s required 300 hours of “sweat equity” by working on other Habitat homes under construction in Denville and Hopatcong. He especially enjoys roofing, framing, and window installation. Ada and the older sons are also contributing to the sweat equity hours. They’ve helped to take down trees at the site of their future home on Collins Avenue, and Ada volunteers at the Morris Habitat ReStore, where donated construction and household items are sold to the public at a fraction of their retail cost.
Helar now works as an electro-mechanical assembler for a medical testing equipment firm. It pays less than his former maintenance job but provides the experience he wants in electronics. He is pursuing an associate’s degree in electronics engineering at the County College of Morris. Ada keeps busy caring for the four children. German has a summer job in landscaping. He and Ryan are students at Jefferson Township High School, Ashley will begin first grade in September, and Kevin will attend preschool. Helar and Ada speak both Spanish and English with their children, who are all fluently bilingual.
The Lanchipas often reflect on the differences they find between the USA and their Latin American home countries. Ada misses the constant warm weather, Helar misses the ocean, and Ryan misses the animals on his grandparents’ farm. But here, Ada enjoys the security, Helar is grateful for the work opportunities, and Ryan loves the snow. All of them appreciate the help they’ve received on their journeys to and within the United States. “God has always blessed me, putting the right people—like angels—in my life,” says Ada. Morris Habitat for Humanity is the latest group of angels, helping the family to build a house and make it a home.
Camille Allen - Bellevue Terrace, Morristown
Camille Allen’s home in Morristown was formerly the site of the neighborhood dump, a place to deposit leaves, glass bottles, and the occasional used tire. Then Morris Habitat for Humanity acquired the compact piece of property nestled in a corner of a development close to Speedwell Avenue. Today, the land bears no evidence of its junkyard past. A three-unit house sits on it enveloped by large trees.
Allen lives with her two sons in the middle unit. All three units have a comfortable two-level floor plan with three bedrooms upstairs and a kitchen, living room, and utility room downstairs.
Life was not always so good for Allen. Before she moved into her Habitat home in 2002, the 35-year old Jamaica native, who came to the U.S. eighteen years ago, lived in Morris Plains while working as a social worker with the Morris County Division of Human Services. Her older son, Sean, was in high school and her younger one, Fabian, was in elementary school.
For Allen, the financial burden of living in one of the most expensive counties in the country was proving to be too much. “I was paying 60% of my income for rent,” she said. “It was hard to make ends meet.”
And so when she found out that she had been chosen from among many applicants to become one of the homeowners in a three-family structure to be built in Morristown, Allen was overjoyed. “It was very emotional,” she said of the time. “We were really excited.”
Her circumstances, she feels, were symptomatic of the affordable housing crisis in Morris County, one that affects not just low-income individuals but those of moderate income as well. As an articulate and confident young woman with a college degree, she had “a decent job,” Allen said, but it was still a struggle to come up with the monthly rent payments.
Now free from the burden of writing large rent checks, this single mother can focus on the things that are important to her, like her sons’ education. Fabian, now a sixth grader, is on the Honor Roll at Freylinghuysen Middle School while Sean is a junior at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
She herself has her sights set on more than one goal. She currently holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology but intends to return to school for a master’s and eventually a doctoral degree in social work. In addition to her full-time job, she referees at soccer and lacrosse games, serves as the president of the area’s Interfaith Council for the Homeless, and often bakes for various local events.
How does she fit all this into a 24-hour day? “I don’t need much sleep,” Allen said with a smile, but she attributed part of this voluntary hyperactivity to being a Habitat homeowner. “When your financial situation changes, your entire life changes,” she said. “If your housing is unstable, you can’t focus on your goals.”
To learn more about Morris Habitat and how you can help, please go to www.MorrisHabitat.org or call 973-891-1934.
About Morris Habitat for Humanity
Morris Habitat for Humanity is part of a global, nonprofit housing organization operated on Christian principles by building homes, communities and hope. Morris Habitat is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide through constructing, rehabilitating and preserving homes; advocating for fair and just housing policies; and providing training and access to resources to help families improve their living conditions. Habitat for Humanity was founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should live in dignity and safety, and that decent shelter in decent communities should be a matter of conscience and action for all. Morris Habitat welcomes volunteers and supporters from all backgrounds and serves people in need of decent housing regardless of race or religion.
Since 1985 Morris Habitat has served 305 families though home ownership opportunities, home preservation, and international home building programs. During the past year Morris Habitat has completing 5 units, with 15 under construction, and finished 10 home repair projects. Thirty eight projects are in the pipeline for 2015-2017. In addition, proceeds from the ReStore, opened May 2007, have built 14 homes and diverted 4,400 tons of useable material out of landfills. Located at 274 South Salem Street, Randolph. Store hours: Tues 12 - 8 p.m., Wed & Fri 10 - 6 p.m., Thur 10 - 8 p.m., Sat 10 - 5 p.m.