habitat-for-humanity_web.jpgMIAMI – Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami held its largest dedication ceremony to date last weekend in honor of 16 Liberty City families that have recently completed the journey to new homeownership. 

The organization’s “Faith Day” was an opportunity to unite the families, members of the clergy and the community with more than 140 volunteers who assisted in building the homes. The Nov. 7 celebration culminated the 2009 Liberty City Revitalization Project. The project was developed after the organization obtained 140 vacant lots from Miami-Dade County.

In order to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home, each family was required to be deemed “low-income,” had to make a down payment of $1,500, and had to have a favorable debt history. Each family also needed  a favorable debt-to-income ratio with no recent bankruptcies, verifiable employment and a commitment to partnering with the Habitat volunteers for the construction of the homes.

They had to participate in a minimum of 250 to 300 hours of “sweat equity” in which they participated in building their own houses.

The Faith Day event took place at the Cameron’s Little Farms at 2341 N.W. 50th St., a future development site for additional Habitat houses.

Not only did families receive the keys to their new homes, which will be located on scatter sites throughout the Liberty City community, each family also received a Bible and a gift certificate to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The ReStore sells publicly donated items at a discounted price, with sales being 100 percent tax deductible. Proceeds are used to build homes for other low-income families.

Michelle Marcos, communications manager for Habitat for Humanity, told the South Florida Times  that her organization offers a “hand-up out of poverty, not a hand-out” and that each family purchased their home for approximately $100,000, with a zero-percent-interest mortgage, with payments set at 30 percent of the homeowners’ monthly income.

Marcos also stated that the lots in which the homes were built were donated by the county to build infill affordable housing. She said the construction costs of the homes were paid through a community effort by donations collected from private donors, churches, foundations and corporations such as Chase bank and Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church.

“Liberty City is an area with a proliferation of poverty housing, and with the land donated by the county, Habitat for Humanity is able to bring affordable housing opportunities to the area,” Marcos said.

One of the most inspirational stories of the day came from Jacqueline Woodson, a single mother who joined the program in an effort to find better living accommodations for herself and her bed-ridden, disabled adult son.

Woodson told the South Florida Times that her family was living in a very small apartment in which the air-conditioning system was often inoperable, plumbing was severely contaminated and, due to the lack of accessibility in the bathroom, she was forced to bathe her son right in his own bed.

She said she felt it was time for a change. Seeking better care for her family, she sought assistance from Habitat for Humanity after learning about the program through a friend.

“Today I am truly overjoyed,” said Woodson, who received the keys to her new, two-bedroom home on Northwest 58th Street.  “I was really feeling down with no place to turn, but with the grace of God through Habitat for Humanity, I was picked up and placed on my feet.”

The new home is handicapped accessible to accommodate the needs of her son.

“This is the first time in 68 years that I’ve had my own home and it was built not only for me, but to make it easier for my son to get the care he needs,” Woodson said. “He feels really good about this and I thank Habitat for helping me put a little smile on his face.”


Photo by Brandyss Howard. Ava Marks, left, and her two daughters, Mia, center, and Avianna, bottom, joined Mabel Marcos, right, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami’s family services director, at the Nov. 7 event.