Home at last!

Family's sweat,others' help pays for Hancock house

Family's sweat,others' help pays for Hancock house

October 31, 2002|by JANET HEIM

HANCOCK - The porch of Shelly Masters new home in the Mountain View Estates subdivision of Hancock is all decked out for Halloween and she can hardly wait to decorate for Christmas.

"This will be the first Christmas my boys and I will be in our new home and we're really looking forward to it," Masters said.

Masters, 39, a pharmacy technician at Martin's Pharmacy at Fountainhead Plaza, can hardly contain her pride and excitement in owning her own home.


For most homebuyers, the process involves finding a home to buy, working with a bank or lending institution, then signing on the dotted line.

But Masters helped build her home and the homes of her three neighbors through Interfaith Housing's Self-Help Housing program.

Through it, each homeowner works with four to six other families on the homebuilding project for several months, working a minimum of 30 hours a week in addition to their full-time job and family responsibilities.

Each homeowner works with his or her neighbors to build all of the houses in their group before they can move in. Licensed subcontractors are hired to complete such things as plumbing and electric, but the families themselves do the rest. Families receive pre-construction training and on-site supervision from a construction supervisor supplied by Interfaith Housing.

"I grew up in Baltimore County and never had a nice home growing up," Masters said. "After I got married, my in-laws gave us a trailer to live in, but when I got divorced and my name wasn't on the deed, my son Jesse and I were evicted. That was very hard and I vowed to never let that happen again."

Masters and her sons, Jesse, who is 15, and Logan Manning, who is 6, were living in a very small two bedroom trailer near Sideling Hill when she read in the local paper that applications were being taken for a self-help housing program in Hancock. Masters was selected for the program and there was no turning back.

"I said 'I'm ready' and jumped in with both feet. We began working on the first house in October 2001," she said.

"I'm the first one in my family to own a new home, but it wasn't easy. I had to work on the house three nights a week after work and, basically, gave up my weekends.

"The guilt killed me - missing Logan's T-ball games and not being able to spend more time with my boys," she said. "Jesse helped with meals and babysat Logan. I couldn't have done this without their help and support."

Even her new neighbors helped out with babysitting.

"We look out for each other. We know our neighbors well because we spent 30 hours a week together during construction. We have nicknames for each other, too," Masters said.

Jim Upchurch, president of Interfaith Housing, considers the self-help builders the real heroes.

"The self-help builders hold down jobs and manage to keep their families intact. Some work when it's so cold they have to chip ice out of the footings and others work when the shingles are too hot to hold in the summer. I have so much respect for these builders," he said.

"I am inspired by the sacrifices people make for their families to have a decent house," Upchurch said.

Not only does the self-help housing program enable people to afford their own home, many move in with equity of $15,000 to 20,000 - because of all the "sweat equity" they put in to building their homes.

The milestone day for Shelly Masters, her family and new neighbors was Aug. 28. It was settlement day, the day they finally took possession of the homes they had labored so long and hard to build.

"Jesse is tickled pink to have his own bedroom," Masters said. For all of the self-help builders, it's a dream come true.

For Masters, there were times she was ready to give up, but her sons kept her going. "They knew I was doing this for them. They tease me and tell me they're going to put on my tombstone 'Thanks for building us a new house, Mom!'," she said.

The self-help housing program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development division.

For more information on Interfaith Housing's Self-Help Program in Hancock, contact Debbie Cohill at 301-678-6605.

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