Washtenaw County Catholic churches renovate house with Habitat for Humanity
Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com
The county’s 12 congregations — plus Saint Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital — have raised funds to sponsor and renovate a home with Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley. The non-profit organization provides homeownership opportunities and assistance for low-income families in Washtenaw County.
The group raised the pledged $30,000 to sponsor the property and has been sending construction volunteers since early April to renovate the home at 2143 Merrill St., Ypsilanti, in what they have dubbed, the “Catholic House.”
“Every church is spiritually behind it and many are financially behind it, because we all believe in the importance of good, clean, safe housing for people,” said Rev. Brendan Walsh, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Dexter and vicar for the region.
St. Joseph raised the funds during a “fifth Sunday” collection in January, as part of the church’s tradition of donating money collected during additional masses held in months with more than four Sundays to charity. But many other churches, including Ann Arbor’s St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas the Apostle and Chelsea’s St. Mary Parish, participated as part of a special project for Lent.
Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com
St. Francis, a leader in the project, contributed about one-third of the total funds as part of its Lenten “Sustain a House Sack.” The annual project asks parishioners to cut back on their energy use during Lent and contribute the financial savings to a partner organization to support those in need.
Scott Wright, the parish social ministry director at St. Francis, said Lent was a period of preparation for Easter, the Christian holy day marking the believed resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“This is a practice of trying to simplify our lives in order that we can share what we have with others who are less fortunate, because we recognize when we pray, fast and give alms, that life is not fair and that when we participate, we basically share what God has given everyone,” he said.
The “Catholic House” eventually will be home to Hosanna Vivas and her 12-year-old daughter, Andrea. The Venezuelan native, who now lives in an apartment in Ann Arbor, fled her home country in 2006 after being kidnapped and robbed in her home country, and now lives in the United States as a permanent resident.
Vivas is a single mother who works as a Spanish-English medical interpreter at the University of Michigan and takes classes at Washtenaw Community College in preparation for nursing school. She said while she works and pays her bills, she never had enough cash to purchase a home. When a friend informed her of the support with Habitat for Humanity, Vivas applied and said she quickly was approved.
“For me to get my house was like a dream,” she said. “I saw a lot of houses, and I never thought that it could be possible because of my economic situation.”
Families who qualify to receive a Habitat home have income levels between 30-60 percent of the Washtenaw County area median income, varying by family size, according to the Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley website. Families must then contribute 200 “sweat equity” hours of building work per adult toward their house in addition to an interest-free mortgage payment that does not exceed more than 30 percent of the family’s income.
Karen Shellie, manager of corporate relationships for Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, said houses usually are valued at around $100,000 after renovation, though purchased for much less. In the case of the “Catholic House,” Habitat acquired the home from Ypsilanti Township after it had been abandoned for nearly two years.
Volunteers have been renovating the house every Friday and Saturday since April 6 and will continue until early June. A dedication to welcome Vivas and her daughter into the home is expected later that month.
Vivas said she is extremely grateful to Habitat for Humanity, God and all the people who have contributed to her home.
“I’m feeling really happy, my daughter is feeling happy because she’s going to have her own room, she’s going to be able to bring her friends home and we are going to have our own place,” she said. “This is more than wonderful.”