‘Wall Raising’ signals new abode is in the homestretch

Wall raising group photo at the soon-to-be home of Justine Johnson, center in black. [Photo: Brenda Ahearn]

Homeownership can be a long time coming, but is well worth the wait. Just ask Justine Johnson, whose dream of purchasing her own home will come true in November, when her Indian River Habitat for Humanity home in the Oslo Park area is due to be completed.

The sun was shining down on Johnson and her 2-year-old daughter Sophia last Saturday morning at a Habitat Wall Raising Ceremony, complete with a ceremonial Passing of the Hammer, which marks her progress since entering the program last August.

“She’s put a lot of work in,” said Eve Kyomya, IRHH director of Community Development. “It takes about 12 to 18 months for a homebuyer to complete the whole program.”

Kyomya explained that the wall raising takes place once a home buyer reaches 60 percent of the program requirements, which includes sweat equity hours, classes and the savings needed to become a homeowner.

“So that’s why it’s a big celebration. They’re past the halfway mark and they now get to start building on their very own house,” said Kyomya, adding the construction takes roughly five months. “It’s very exciting for the homebuyer; they’re that much closer. They can now see their actual house going up. And the next thing we look forward to is the dedication of the fully completed home.”

She’s very excited to start working on her house,” said Jeff Francisco, director of Outreach & Impact.

Unlike Habitat’s nearby 55-home Waterside Community, which was built out last June, Johnson’s home is on a single lot, that is interspersed with non-Habitat homes.

“The neat thing about that is that as we build new homes in the neighborhood, we’re not only affecting Habitat homeowners, but we’re helping to develop, generally, the area,” said Kyomya.

Since 1991, Habitat has built more than 400 homes in Indian River County, including those under construction. They have also purchased a number of homes which they then refurbished.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Habitat has been unable to use volunteers, but the construction staff has continued its efforts.

“Since the third week of March, we closed on three homes and finished two others that we’re going to close the end of this month,” said Francisco, adding that there would be a second Wall Raising at the end of June. “So we’ve been busy.”

“Our on-staff construction team has really been working hard to have these homes built and ready,” Kyomya agreed.

“We’ve been talking a lot about our essential workers, recognizing them as heroes all around the community. And a lot of Habitat homebuyers are in those industries that remained essential during the shutdown. They’re magnificent people in many ways.”

For more information, visit irchabitat.org.

Photos by: Brenda Ahearn
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