Habitat's show-and-tell in Waverly opens eyes Community leaders see housing challenges in tour

September 13, 1996|By Katherine Marks | Katherine Marks,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Jean Fletcher, 62, lived in Section 8 housing last year but wanted a neighborhood where she and her grand-nephew Kenny would feel safer. She turned to Habitat for Humanity as a last resort, she says, because most places she applied for housing turned her down because of her age.

She now owns a brick rowhouse on Mathews Street, which yesterday was the first stop on a Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity-sponsored walking tour through Waverly.

The tour gave community leaders and potential contributors a close-up look at the challenges faced by lower-income families -- an inner-city show-and-tell of sorts.

The eight-block tour began at Fletcher's house, where she lives with 14-year-old Kenny, who attends Chinquapin Middle School. Except for about 20 cats, the house was vacant before the Fletchers moved in.

Fletcher is proud of the home she has occupied for 16 months. "Where we lived [before], my God, anything went on," she said. "It was overrun with drugs, murder. We were afraid to go to the store."

About a dozen people toured Fletcher's renovated home before heading to a house in the 900 block of Montpelier St. -- one of four that Habitat volunteers are repairing.

Church and other volunteer groups interested in sponsoring a site were invited to meet with those who had already sponsored a home, including volunteers from the Timonium United Methodist Church, who renovated a house across the street from Fletcher in four weeks.

The tour was aimed at getting such organizations, as well as volunteers, involved.

Bill Schroeder, a retired salesman whose wife is a member of the Timonium church, acted as the construction foreman of a project across the street from Fletcher's home. He said the 120 volunteers from Timonium did not want to stop working. "Seventy-five percent of the people we brought in here had no idea what to do before," he said. "By the time the day was over everyone was involved."

Many of the sponsors are corporate and donate money or goods, but they do not complete the renovation. Potential residents are required to put in 300 "sweat-equity" hours, which in turn serve as a down payment for the home. The homeowners then receive interest-free mortgages.

Jenny Hope, executive director of the Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity, said the organization often will order materials or send in construction manager Dale Bowen to oversee and pitch in with renovation.

After seeing the work site, members of the Better Waverly Community Organization, neighbors and volunteers on the tour were taken to another house on Montpelier. Chesapeake volunteers chose the vacant home as a potential rehabilitation project. Unlike the recently painted house next door, the vacant home's lawn is overgrown, its steps are wobbly, its porch cracked and its front door broken.

The tour ended with a reception at the home renovated by the Timonium volunteers, which lacks only a few finishing touches -- a painted house number, a shower rod for the bathroom -- and is still waiting to be filled with new occupants.

Pub Date: 9/13/96

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