By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — While construction work continues on the Orleans Habitat for Humanities 14th house, the Habitat’s volunteers are searching for the right family to help finish it — and reach a degree of stability and happiness there.
This is the second rehabilitation project undertaken by the local Habitat and the first to progress this far without a recipient selected. Habitat officials say their efforts to secure a partner family has been difficult, with fewer applications than ever before.
Kathie Valley, the chair of the Orleans Habitat’s selection committee, and her four-member team have been looking for a family for five months. They’ve made home visits, and conducted countless credit checks.
“It’s quite a process, were just like the banks in how we check references,” said Valley, referencing the need to have a family that can afford the no-interest loans and property taxes. “Our first is to find the families a place that is safer than they are in and not be too much more in rent. We don’t want to put them in a financial situation they can’t handle. We want them to be safe and able to pay.”
Valley said part of the delay in selecting a family is due to an unstable economy. Despite advertising the opportunity through schools, churches and social services; they’ve been unable to make the most important choice. It’s one they take seriously.
”We’ve encouraged people to call us and we can help them with the applications,” Valley said. “We’ve had great success with our last three families, but it was a long process to find them.”
Habitat has a few good candidates lined up, Valley noted, but applications can still be filed for House 14 and future projects. Orleans Habitat President Kay VanNostrand said the group isn’t sure if their next project will be a full-on rehab or smaller repair jobs like wheelchair ramps through Habitat’s Brush with Kindness Program.
Not having a family did not prevent Habitat volunteers from jumping in on the home they received from a donor. The first work on the West Oak Orchard Street house was in 2011, but VanNostrand said it’s moved slowly because of the lack of a family selected.
“We felt we should start right away,” VanNostrand said.
Valley said they hope to have a family approved in the spring, when the community component to the build kicks into high gear. Recipient families pledge 400 hours of sweat equity that they, their friends and families contribute to the project.
“One we have that lined up, the family is actively involved,” VanNostrand said. “We’re hoping to have it completed in the summer.”