Where are they now?

Mercy Loan Fund staff recently took a look back at some of the loans made years ago and checked in with the borrowers to see where their projects are today.

Hope House of Colorado

Hope House
Photo that sits on the piano at Hope House of the 7 children of the family that originally built and lived in the home.

One of the most unusual loans Mercy Loan Fund made was to Hope House of Colorado (Hope House), a Christian non-profit organization that is metro-Denver’s only resource providing parenting teen moms residential, mentoring and GED services.

In 2004, Hope House was operating its group home in Arvada, Colorado through a below market lease arrangement with Rocky Mountain Housing Development Corporation (RMHDC).  RMHCD purchased the house on five acres with plans to develop the property into a 60 unit rental property for low income families.  When the new development began, RMHDC donated the existing house to Hope House, and Heritage Bible Community Church donated a site nearby.  Mercy Loan Fund provided a $100,000 loan to Hope House to help fund the relocation of the house to the donated land.

Hope House 2Hope House accepts teens that are currently parenting, providing them with a two year self-sufficiency program.  The key to Hope House’s effectiveness is offering participants a set of tangible goals to rebuild their lives.  Goals will typically include: completing high school or earning a GED followed by some form of higher education; enhancing parenting skills; maintaining a responsible budget; developing self-control, conflict resolution  and time-management skills; demonstrating self-sufficiency through career employment; and preparing for independent living.

In 2007, Hope House began providing community programs to teen mothers.  This year Hope House celebrates it ten year anniversary.  Their Mentoring Program and GED Programs are well under way. They recently created a new Learning Lab, designed for their GED grads that move on to post-secondary education.  The Learning Lab will provide:  free access to computers and printers; free tutoring; weekly individual education plans, providing structure and guidance for navigating college classes successfully; career-building workshops; and access to their Mentoring, Parenting and Healthy Relationships Programs.

Hope House continues to explore ways to partner with other service providers in the area, and nationally, to develop “best practices” and benchmarks for success for teen moms working to attain self sufficiency.

Helani Gardens, Maui, Hawaii

Helani Lot 2 houseHana, Maui is a verdant paradise nestled in the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean in East Maui.  Many celebrities have found refuge here in its beauty and serenity. However, this paradisiacal beauty belies the sub-standard and overcrowded conditions in which many local families live.  Due to its remote location and the high cost of housing in Hawaii, no affordable housing has been built in this community for 35 years. Eleven years ago the Self-Help Housing Corporation of Hawaii (SHHCH) started community workshops in Hana to explore the interest in self-help housing. After building a 14 lot subdivision, with the help of a loan from Mercy Loan Fund in partnership with Rural Communities Assistance Corporation, the Helani Gardens Self-Help Housing Project finally broke ground for the residential construction in April, 2011.

Kari-Ann Rost, a single parent of Hawaiian ancestry with two children, has an income of 45% of the area median income, and lived in a sub-standard house which was severely overcrowded.  Victor Lopez-Martinez and Babette Lopez, a family of 5, lived in an area with no electricity and no potable water. Melissa Magonigle, a single parent of three children, and a Captain in the U.S.  Army Reserve, is another family in the Helani Gardens Self-Help Project. Wilsam and Antoinette Kapoi, a family of four, lived in a shed with no potable water nor electricity. These families and eight more families built their own houses in the Helani Gardens Self-Help Project.

After providing intensive financial counseling to enable the families to qualify for mortgage financing, the SHHCH staff attained RD 502 Direct loans for them. The RD 502 loan Program  provides a subsidy on the interest rate which is annually adjusted to a family’s income.  Upon their determinations of eligibility, the families were enrolled in a 6 week homeownership course taught by SHHCH in which they learned all the legal and financial responsibilities of homeownership while preparing for the construction stage.

The self-help families built three and four bedroom, two bath houses of Douglas fir with carports for $130,000, a cost unheard of in Hana. With appraised values much higher, the “sweat equity” of the families served as the down payment. The construction time took much longer than usual due to shipping all the construction materials over a arduous one lane highway traversing mountain cliffs which was closed in inclement weather. Ten houses have been completed, and families have moved in. Two houses are finishing up at this time. SHHCH is qualifying two Hawaiian single parents for the last two lots. All fourteen families will assist in building the last four houses.

With the average sales price for a single family house in Hawaii over $600,000, these families whose incomes range from $35,000-$60,000, would never qualify for homeownership through conventional means. Through the technical assistance provided by the SHHCH, these families realized their dreams of homeownership.

The SHHCH has completed 47 projects assisting 601 low income families on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and Molokai to build their own houses through the team self-help housing method. According to Claudia Shay, the founder and Executive Director, of the SHHCH, “The team self-help housing method has been very successful in Hawaii particularly for projects with the very low and low income families, minority households, single parent households, native Hawaiians, and employee projects.”

Mercy Loan Fund is proud to have partnered with Hope House and SHHCH, great organizations that have successful programs that provide affordable housing for those in need.