Habitat for Humanity builds house accessible to disabled in Arundel

Ability Awareness helps group increase options for those with low incomes

November 06, 2003|By Stephanie Tracy | Stephanie Tracy,SUN STAFF

Kathy Hall knew she could provide a better home for her family if she worked hard enough -- but she never thought she would get a brand-new home.

Yesterday, Anne Arundel County's first "Ability House" -- an accessible home built for a low-income family with one or more disabled members -- had its roof and most of its siding in place, five days after volunteers from the Habitat for Humanity organization began a "blitz build" to construct the house in eight days.

"It hasn't hit me yet that it's really happening," Hall said. "I can see it happening to everyone else, but not me. You work really hard to make a better life for your family, but you have to do it."

The project is scheduled to be completed by Saturday, when the house will look finished from the outside. Interior work will continue until early spring, when a house-dedication ceremony is expected in March or April.

In addition to the roof and siding, the house had roof shingles, doors and windows yesterday afternoon.

A wheelchair ramp, a rear deck and front porch were under construction.

By early spring, Hall and her two teen-age children, one of whom has a disability, will move into their house in the 300 block of Key Ave. in the Pumphrey community, in the county's northern section.

Although Habitat for Humanity provides accommodations for families with disabled members, partnerships with Ability Awareness make more accessibility options available.

Each Ability House is built through a partnership between local Habitat chapters and Ability Awareness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

The Ability House on Key Avenue is one of seven houses being built by Arundel Habitat for Humanity. Hall's house and the neighboring house, also under construction, are the 64th and 65th houses built by Arundel Habitat since its founding in 1987.

Hall found out about Habitat through a co-worker, and after a yearlong application process, Hall received news that she'd been approved for a Habitat house.

By yesterday, about 75 volunteers had participated in constructing the house. They included about 25 disabled volunteers and many Arundel Habitat volunteers working to earn "sweat-equity hours" toward their own Habitat homes.

Groups of volunteers from United Parcel Service Inc., Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, and the Baltimore-based disability advocacy group Making Choices for Independent Living Inc. have supplied much of the labor for the early construction phases.

About 20 volunteers from Making Choices came out to the work site for four-hour shifts yesterday, said Making Choices assistant director Andrea Buonincontro.

"Accessible and affordable housing is so important for so many of the people we work with," Buonincontro said. "So we're very interested to see what happens with this."

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