Working for a home
A Lansing mother moves into her Habitat for Humanity house
Editor’s note: The State News has been following Teresa Snead on her journey of receiving a home from Habitat for Humanity since the ground breaking at the building site May 22, 2008. The following is her story.
“It’s like a fresh start,” Teresa Snead said. “I love it, I love it. So happy.” This year, Snead, 36, and her four children spent their first holiday season in their new Lansing home after they were officially handed the keys on Nov. 21. Finally being able to move into the two-story house after more than four months of labor with Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity was a life-changing experience for Snead.
“It’s going good,” Snead said of her first few months in the new home. “I’m still not done furnishing it like I want.”
Snead said she hopes to be done making the home her own within the next month.
Along with more than 500 volunteers, Snead has been working to build a new life for herself and her family since the Ballard Street plot was excavated on May 22.
“I think that house is going to change everything about her,” said Larry Dawson, Snead’s father.
She will continue, he hopes, “to strive and to not sit back and use excuses and become depressed because it seems like things are not going (her) way.”
Snead spends six days and more than 75 hours per week working three, sometimes four, ?jobs to provide for her children — Parris Snead, 10, Demarius Hoyle, 13, Dominique Hoyle, 15, and Dequan Hoyle, 18.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have a reason to do what I’m doing,” Snead said. “Everything that I do, I’m doing it for them.”
Snead works for Lansing School District as a bus driver and lunch aide.
Between being responsible for the safe delivery of 50 to 70 elementary and high school students to school each day, she makes sure her own children are ready for school and takes them there herself.
In late afternoon, she ?cleans as a supervisor for Commercial Janitor Service in Lansing. In the evenings, Snead works as a cashier at Rally’s Hamburgers.
During the week, Snead often makes it home around 1 a.m., leaving her only a ?couple hours before she wakes up the next morning at 5:30 a.m. to start all over again.
Snead looked strained as ?she sighed, “Work, work, ?work. That’s all I do ?is work.”
Working for a home
In addition to her multiple jobs, Snead was required to put in plenty of work toward the building of her new home. She had to complete 300 hours of what is referred to as “sweat equity,” and can include taking part in the construction of her home, volunteering to do office work or helping with special events for Habitat for Humanity Lansing.
In order to qualify for a house, an applicant must meet three requirements: the ability to pay the mortgage, the completion of sweat equity and to initially be living in substandard housing.
Snead got an additional job after Habitat approved her so she could keep up with her bills and future mortgage.
Snead’s father, sister, nephew, cousin and cousin-by-marriage helped with her sweat equity hours, although Snead estimates she completed more than 250 hours on her own. The extra hours she completed were donated to another family receiving a house from Habitat.
“When you have a family and you are a single parent, you look for no one but yourself and that’s what she’s done,” Dawson said.
Snead must keep her multiple jobs in order to keep up with bills and the monthly payments on the mortgage for her new home.
A Habitat for Humanity home is purchased with a zero-percent mortgage that is paid off with monthly payments based on the income of the homeowner. The price the homeowner must pay is based on the cost of construction or the market appraised value, whichever is lower.
Prior to moving to her new home on Ballard Street, Snead lived in a rental home on Grand River Avenue for nine years that contained standing water in the basement, mold in the bathroom and poor insulation.
“They feel more secure in this house,” Snead said about her children in the Habitat home. “They are just glad to be away from the other house.”
Snead’s new home contains four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a backyard. It also received the Energy Star home certification, which allows for affordable heating and cooling bills.
Making a difference
“To hospitality, caring and sharing which brings God’s light into the world,” volunteers prayed as they locked hands and encircled the home they helped create during the ground blessing Oct. 5.
“We dedicate this home for the Glory of God. Amen.”
Holt resident Jane Braatz was one of many volunteers who felt compelled to help build the home.
“(I’m) very happy for her because she has worked long and hard for this,” Braatz said. “There is just something about owning your own place, and that is going to be the joy that she has.”
Braatz is a chapter specialist and volunteer for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and serves as a liaison to Habitat.
It wasn’t the first or the last time volunteers from Habitat and Thrivent Financial would touch the lives of their neighbors.
“I appreciate them everyday,” Snead said. “I’m glad for all the hard work they are helping me do.”
Snead’s house was the 74th built by Habitat Lansing, which is part of Habitat for Humanity International. The organization has built more than 225,000 houses since 1976.
Anyone interested can volunteer on a Habitat project — the skills of the volunteers range from the seasoned carpenter to the utterly inexperienced.
Charlie Finkel, contractor and full-time supervisor for Habitat for Humanity Lansing, was responsible for organizing the volunteers and teaching them the techniques needed to build.
“Usually, it is frustrating only if you are looking at how much you are going to get done, because there is no way that they are going to get as much done as professionals would,” Finkel said.
Finkel said that many of the volunteers were still really enthusiastic to learn despite lack of experience.
“When I first got the job, I thought of it as it’s like teaching a shop class with people who actually want to learn,” he said.
“I enjoy working with families that might otherwise not be able to afford a home,” Finkel said, adding that owning a house gives someone “a feeling of ownership within the community that they very likely haven’t had before.”
Habitat has partnered with Thrivent Builds, a Lutheran-based group comprising 13 local churches responsible for financial support and volunteer labor, to build two other homes in the Lansing area.
“Because of our Lutheran background, it’s something we are called to do,” Braatz said. “Other than the physical aspect, I think seeing the joy when those keys are handed over is just a very touching moment.
“It is a point of security. It is something that you have. It is something where you have a safe environment for your children,” Braatz said. “It is like Teresa said one time, ‘I can do things with this. It is going to be mine.’”