This story originally appeared on Heart of Texas Public Radio.
On a windy, 40 degree morning 33-year-old Rosanna Guajardo watches as a core of volunteers with Waco Habitat For Humanity set up the framework for what will become her new home.
They’re hammering and drilling together the foundation of Guajardo’s house. In six months, this work will culminate into an 1,100-square foot home, equipped with 3 bedrooms and one and three-quarters bathrooms. (If you’re wondering, a three-quarters bathroom is a bathroom complete with a sink, toilet and shower, but not a bathtub.)
But even before the final pieces of Guajardo’s home are in place, she says it’s already an improvement from her previous housing situation. She lived in a one-bedroom apartment off 34th street. But a number of reasons forced Guajardo to re-evaluate staying there.
For one, there wasn’t a lot of room for her and her daughter, and as she’ll explain, the neighborhood wasn’t the best.
“There was people that lived next, you know,” Guajardo said, covered in a heavy scarf. “Our neighbors were not good neighbors at all – so my daughter was never able to go outside. With her getting older, you know, she had her bike but she never went outside to ride it – she was never able to go outside.”
The conditions were so bad, Guajardo says, that she decided to leave the apartment before she finalized her application process for a habitat house. That process can be an intensive one, says Brenda Shuttlesworth, the executive director for Waco Habitat for Humanity.
“The first thing that we have to do is see if a person is income eligible. Because in our new home construction program we serve people that earn between 20 percent and 60 percent of the area median family income.”
According to the latest Census data, that means for a family looking to apply for a habitat home, they’d have to make anywhere from roughly $8,500 to about $25,500. They would also need to have a good work history and have lived in McLennan County for at least a year. Once approved, the process of building a habitat home, from raising the walls up to walking in the front door, takes about 6 months and $90,000 to complete. That cost is paid for by sponsorship and fundraising efforts. It’s all pretty remarkable to Guajardo – who already has an idea of how she’ll decorate.
“My mom’s already gonna decorate my baby’s room, cause she draws so she’s gonna paint the walls for her,” Guajardo said. “I’m getting stuff little by little. I picked out my colors for my living room. It’s just a small process; it’s a lot to take at one time. I’ve been ready for it, but it’s finally here and I’m just like, everything is just like everywhere.”
Soon the morning crew will take an hour lunch break and they’ll be relieved by the afternoon team. This process will repeat itself, with volunteers and staff members working to build a house that Guajardo can finally call home.