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A home to call her own

Christine McCall
A home to call her own

Nonprofit aids family in building future home

    Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston and its volunteers began the final phase of construction at Blue Hill Place in Dorchester in September with the help of about 225 Delta Air Lines employees. A few weeks ago, some of the Delta Air Lines employees raised a second-floor wall of the last condominium building consisting of two four-bedroom condos and one three-bedroom. Siraad Yusuf (middle photo, second from left), is a Somalian refugee, and will occupy the three-bedroom condo with her son and two nephews when it is complete next summer. (Christine McCall photos)

Siraad Yusuf will have a new home next summer, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston.  

Yusuf is a Somalian refugee who left the destruction of her war-torn country back in 1989 for a better life in Holland. She came to the United States in 2002, and ever since then has dreamed of owning her own home.

Uncertain of how to make what seemed at the time like a far-fetched dream become a reality, Yusuf took advantage of an opportunity to enroll in the “Moving from Debt to Assets Program,” a financial literacy class sponsored by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, this past summer.

The program is a six-week money management course focused on budgeting, setting financial goals, cutting spending, saving, learning how to avoid foreclosure and understanding credit. While in this class, Yusuf developed a greater understanding of how to budget and build her credit.

She also learned she was eligible to apply for a Habitat for Humanity house. Yusuf began the application process shortly thereafter.

To qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home, applicants must exhibit need, an ability to finance the home and be willing to put in 300 hours of “sweat equity” into the construction of their new home. These Habitat homes cost about $200,000 and the homeowners receive zero-interest, 30-year mortgage loans with no down payment. When calculated, the monthly mortgage payment amounts to $555, often times cheaper then rent for an apartment in the city.

 “I couldn’t believe it,” Yusuf says of the day she was notified that she was selected by The Habitat Greater Boston Board of Directors as a recipient for a home at Blue Hill Place in Dorchester.

“They knew I was really in need to get a house,” Yusuf said.

As it is now, Yusuf is a single mother caring for her 15-year-old son and 17- and 21-year-old nephews and living with her sister in a crowded townhouse in Roxbury. After living in this crowded space for some time, Yusuf says that she and the three boys couldn’t be happier about moving into a place of their own.

Ever since Yusuf was given the news, she says that she stops by the site frequently to check on its progress and much has been made on the 4,500 square feet building consisting of two four-bedroom condos and one three-bedroom. Yusuf and her boys will occupy the three-bedroom condominium.

To celebrate the final phase of construction at Blue Hill Place, Habitat for Humanity staff and Delta Air Lines employees and volunteers attended a topping off ceremony earlier this month. More than 225 Delta Air Lines employees volunteered their time and labor for about three weeks to get the fifth building off the ground.

Delta Air Lines also gave $150,000 for this project and has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for 11 years. In that time, company employees have built 34 homes across the United States. On this day, a crew of the Delta Air Lines employees raised one of the second-floor walls as Yusuf looked on.

“Today we celebrate that there are three families that have houses of their own,” said Barry Matthews of External Affairs and Community Relations at Delta Air Lines.

He also reminded his colleagues and everyone else in attendance: “Big means nothing. Doing something for others is everything.”

The five-building project has been in the works for about six years and when completed in summer of 2011 it will be home to 24 families.

Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey commended the Delta Air Lines volunteers for their hard work and effort in the startup construction of this three-unit condominium.

“The greatest joy in the world is in fact the joy of giving to others,” he said.

Lark Palermo, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston, echoed that sentiment.

“Helping people to achieve their goals is the most rewarding part of this job,” she said. “All they need is a hand up and that’s what we [Habitat for Humanity] do.”