The Road to Homeownership, From Hacienda to Habitat

Gabriela Ortiz will be one of 21 new homeowners at Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East’s Helensview property on 64th and Killingsworth in the Cully neighborhood. Her story is one of dedication, hard work, and the power of organizations working together. “I have always dreamt of owning a home, and my dream has finally come true” said Gabriela as she stood in front of a large crowd at her new home during her home dedication ceremony on June 28, 2016.

Although this begins a new journey for her family, Gabriela is not physically moving very far. She has spent the last 11 years  raising her family  just down the road from Helensview at Hacienda CDC’s Clara Vista  housing community. When Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East joined Living Cully in 2012 and acquired the Helensview site they started working closely with Hacienda to encourage Hacienda residents to apply for Habitat homes in the neighborhood. Residents then worked with Hacienda’s first time homebuyer program to help prepare them to navigate the lengthy path to homeownership.

Gabriela will be the first Hacienda resident to move into a Helensview home so far. The hope is that by working together, Living Cully partners Habitat and Hacienda can help families that are ready transition into homeownership while also freeing up another affordable unit for a family on the waiting list  at Hacienda.

“I spent hours and hours of counseling with Gabriela. She did a great job, followed all the instructions and brought in the paperwork, it took a lot of patience but she was always willing to do it” Says Juan Muros, a Homeownership Counselor for Hacienda CDC.

Gabriela, for her part, thanked both Juan Muros at Hacienda, and Habitat for the opportunity. “Juan told me, if you put 80%, I will put 20% and together we can make this happen, he was very patient and encouraging with me, and a big reason I am here today”, Gabriela reflected during her home dedication.

Gabriela spent many of her 500 sweat equity hours required by Habitat not only working on her new home, but also supporting the grassroots organizing efforts in her neighborhood for more affordable housing through Living Cully and the Cully Housing Action Team (CHAT). Gabriela, and her daughter Ruth, continue to participate by helping lead CHAT’s campaign alongside  the Welcome Home Coalition to promote a measure on the November ballot that will generate funds for more affordable housing Portland-wide.

At a CHAT house meeting in April, Gabriela told her story of homeownership to neighbors gathered there to learn about CHAT and hear each others stories. She knows many neighbors still face housing challenges and she wanted to share her story to give them hope and encourage her neighbors not to give up on their dreams. “Gabriela’s story is very inspiring to me, it gives me hope” says Juana Hernandez, a CHAT member who lives at Arbor Mobile Home park.

Habitat recently acquired another property in Cully and will continue to work closely with Living Cully, CHAT and Hacienda to prepare Cully neighbors to apply to be Habitat homeowners and stay in the neighborhood.

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