What does affordable housing mean to you?

"Our Home, Our Community"

by Lucero Cortez and Erika Parkinson, Catholic Charities of Yakima

Rural Voices - Fall 2014This story appears in the Fall 2014 issue of Rural VoicesZaida Elena Lopez and Ivan Chavez moved to Washington State from Chicago four years ago in search of work. They moved into a one bedroom house that they rented in an orchard that was very far from the community. This is where they had been raising their four year-old son, Brandon. Zaida explained that this was a very lonely, solitary house to live in as there were no other children for her son to play with. She also explained that besides being very isolated and lonely the house had very poor living conditions. It was poorly insulated and the family was often cold in the winter as the house did not retain heat and their heater rarely worked properly. Furthermore, the bills they paid were very expensive. Zaida told us that her monthly electric bill totaled approximately $400 a month!

screenshot from video jpgZaida Elena Lopez and Ivan Chavez in their new home

Since their move from Chicago to Washington, Zaida is a stay at home mom and Ivan works as a Forklift Driver for an agricultural warehouse. Ivan works nights at the warehouse leaving his wife and son alone. He wanted a more secure living environment for his family, and a better house for them to live in as they think about expanding their family. These many factors made the family want to have their own home that would be safer, larger, and more integrated into the community.

Zaida’s aunt told her about Catholic Charities Housing Services (CCHS) and their Single-Family Home Ownership Program. Her aunt was filling out an application with CCHS, and this motivated Zaida to apply as well. Ivan and Zaida were surprised at how easy the process was, from the moment Lucero Cortez, Program Assistant with CCHS, helped them fill out the application.

“That is where everything started,” Zaida said. “At some point we thought that we were not going to qualify because of my husband’s income, but thank God that CCHS was able to help us and we were able to qualify for a home in the coommunity of Tieton.”

CCHS requires qualified homeowners to put 250 hours in “sweat equity,” which means they help with work on their house while it is being built. This may seem like a deterrent to some families, but Zaida said, “When you are interested in something it doesn’t matter what you have to do to accomplish your goal.” Zaida would come to the house with her son, Brandon, to clean, pick up garbage and debris the contractors left behind, and to weed. The family would often come once or even twice a week to help, and Ivan would sometimes leave work early to spend time helping his wife and son. “My son helped out a lot,” said Zaida. “He would come here and be very happy to clean the house. I told him from day one that this was going to be our house that this would be where we would move.” Brandon can often be heard at the house telling his mom proudly, “This is our little house.”

“We are very thankful to Catholic Charities Housing Services for their support. They made us feel calm through the entire process because whenever we had a problem they would be there,” Zaida said. This home will be a place for Zaida, Ivan, and Brandon to have a community with neighbors and children for Brandon to play with, and will be a great place for them to continue their family in a safer, friendlier environment.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Yakima provides help and creates hope for thousands of people each year regardless of religious, social or econimic backgrounds. Catholic Charities provides a myriad of vital services in communities through it’s network of agencies: Catholic Family & Child Service, Catholic Charities Housing Services and the St. Vincent Centers.