Friday, October 20, 2006

Habitat Week 9/17/2006-9/23/2006

Habitat for Humanity – Beaumont, Texas
Katrina/Rita Relief Building

Sunday Sept. 17, 2006

I tried to update the blog, but it looks like the hotel has a block on access to certain websites. I will be forced to communicate the old fashion way via email.

I arrived this afternoon in Houston to a heat index of 105 degrees and rain storms on and off all day. This has been the first rain in a few weeks, so I hope it does not continue all week.

We met briefly in the hotel lobby this afternoon and were told what to expect tomorrow morning at the site.

There are a total of 5 volunteers, 3 women, 2 men, including myself.

We also have other groups that will be showing up throughout the week, and some locals who volunteer on a daily basis. In addition, we have a special group of eleven. They will be wearing white jump-suites. This group is on loan to Habitat, because they will be up for parole over the next few months. I am sure them were all convicted of minor crimes and are totally innocent.

No need to worry, there is a guard present.

Lunch break should bring some interesting stories.

If anybody would like a pen pal, just let me know. I am sure I can hook you up.

The site is about 10 minutes away. The homes that are being built are for those whose homes were destroyed by Katrina, the second wave that hit Beaumont. There are about 12 homes that are occupied and another 18 or so yet to be completed. The goal was to have all of them done by mid-August. Due to the heat this summer and lack of volunteers, they are behind schedule.

We report to the site at 8A on Monday. We have been warned that the heat and humidity can be brutal.

We shall see.

Monday September 18, 2006

This morning it was raining like hell. By 11A, it was sunny and quite humid.

We reported to the site along with the youth group, 18-24 year olds from NCCC. Their stay here is 3 weeks.

Due to the weather we were sent to the Habitat warehouse.

Here, walls are delivered, equipment is stored and a shop is open to the public for resale of household items.

My group, all three, cleaned out a trailer used to at the sites and reconfigured a wall in the trailer to accommodate a large tool chest. Though it took us until lunch, we were all pleased.

The convicts, three, kept to themselves are were working throughout the warehouse.(I was hoping for a short chat with one of them, but the missing teeth and scarred faces were not the most inviting to start a conversation.

We met a future homeowner who was at the warehouse fulfilling her volunteer sweat equity.

It was actually quite interesting to talk to her about her situation and she was very willing to share personal details. So I asked away.

Bea (47) is a single parent of 2 teenage girls. She also cares for her handicapped mother (74), They all lived in New Orleans and made their way to Beaumont before the storm hit. Her home was destroyed, except for 2 walls.

The program works as follows:

- Each home built is valued at about $110,000-$120,000
-You must qualify to be able to purchase and live in a Habitat home
-Your cost is 1/2 or about $52,000.
-Down-payment is $1700, or $700 plus 300 hours of service. 100 hours must be performed at the selected site.
-The mortgage is for 20 years, interest free. It can be extended 5 more years if needed.
-The holder of the mortgage has first option to purchase, if you decide to move or sell.

After lunch the 3 of us went with our Habitat foreman to finish some items on a house that is almost ready for final inspection. We did final touch - up painting and closet door hanging in the bedrooms.

The homes on this block, three are all the same. Large kitchen, dining room, living room, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath and laundry room. It is built on a slab and has a matching large shed. ( The group of kids today were building these sheds at the warehouse today)

Prospective owners are able to pick the colors of the siding. All homes come with appliances that are donated by Whirlpool.

We finished and were out at 4P. Time for a quick nap before dinner.

Tuesday September 19, 2006

Great weather day here in Beaumont. Temperature in the mid 80's, and a breeze. Sunny all day today. By the end of the week we should all have a Club Med tan.

Today we were at the site for the 30 homes.

We built a scaffold at the front of the house, my first experience. Then we used the scaffold that we built to reach finishing the gable with plywood and foam insulation. It was a little uneasy for my climbing up there. I was glad that we made the stepping secure.

It was also an experience for me to standing up on the scaffold and use a nail gun. The back blast kept blowing my hat off my head.

Lunch was catered by a local restaurant. We enjoyed BBQ chicken, a hot Texas style type sausage and baked beans.

The view during lunch was something we did not expect. While we sat on a bench in front of the house eating. the company for the "Johnny on the spot" (toilets) was servicing all the units. We were grateful that the wind was blowing in the other direction.

I attached a photo of the house I was working on today. I took it with my phone, so I am not sure how the quality will forward.

I now can relate to the type of job my son Todd does everyday.

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday September 20, 2006

Great weather day, in the mid 80's with a cool breeze.

Interesting to work inside a house today. We were cutting and nailing braces to the ceiling joists. There was a new regulation since the storm. All the new homes must be double reinforced on the ceiling. This is supposed to help prevent the roof from blowing off.

Jan and Al were the brains in measuring and I was the "legs", to climb the ladder and use the nail gun. They both had a bit of a problem climbing in the rafters. I am becoming an expert with that nail gun.

Habitat is big on safety, so we all must follow rules regarding safety glasses, ladder holding etc.. The foreman are very helpful with allot of patience.

Also learned that hurricane clips are used on all wall studs. Again, to help prevent damage.

My Team players:

Al is from San Jose, Ca. He has two teenage children and is retired. I thought he was in his early 50's, but is actually 64. He is third generation Japanese. He was born in Omaha Nebraska. This is third Habitat trip since August.

Jan is in her 50's, from Hartford, Connecticut. She has two grown children and is a computer consultant.

The inmates were present today. I found out a bit more information. They are not in prison for dangerous crimes...supposedly.
Habitat has been using prisoners since 1999.
They seem to be hard working and keep to themselves.
They are instructed to:

-Have limited conversation with the volunteers and no money, cigarettes, packages etc can be exchanged between the groups.
-They are strip search when they arrive back at the "Big House" every day. If they have any contraband in their possession, all the prisoners in that group will be put in solitaire for 5 days.
All of them would rather be working at the site than be in the prison Mon-Fri.

Thursday September 21, 2006

Today was a mixed up kind of day.

The weather was great this morning at 8:00AM when we reported to the site.

After pulling out all the equipment and trying to finish the project from yesterday, we hear "Ya'll, it's fixin to storm. Pack it up".

Everything had to be put back on the trucks after only 60 minutes of work. When we finished packing it started to rain in sheets.

Off to the warehouse for the rest of the day building up the trailer we worked on previously.

All the changing around today made for a long day. In addition the rain stopped about 1P, and the humidity kicked in at 98%.

Tomorrow, Friday is our last working day. We can return to the site on Saturday if we choose, when the homeowners and local volunteers usually work. We are all going to decide tomorrow, our flights home are on Saturday afternoon from Houston.

Friday September 22, 2006

It is hard to believe that 5 days have already passed.

The best way to describe today is MOIST and HOT. It was 81 degrees at 7:30 this morning, and reached a high of 92. Once again there was threat of rain so we had to shut down by mid-morning.

Since the rain never appeared, but blew right out, we were able to do much needed cleaning for some inspections next week.
Working in each house (three) sweeping, was enough to wear anyone out. We also did some major outside regrouping.
Our shirts were soaked within just a few minutes.

After lunch, we went to a single house site that had to be prepared for tomorrow. State Farm employees will be building this house on Saturdays. The foundation was laid but the surrounding grounds were mud and water.

Tomorrow, Al & I are going to work at the main site for the morning. I am looking forward to this because local volunteers and homeowners are usually present on Saturdays.
We both have afternoon flights out of Houston, so we should have plenty of time to stop back at the hotel.
I'll post some photos this weekend and wrap up some loose ends.


To be continued

Yesterday was actually the most productive solid 4 hours of work that we had all week.There was plenty of heavy lifting and sweat involved. We had to replace bottom boards of pre-framed walls the were built by companies up north. The bottom board was not treated wood.There were about 15 locals, many high school age students who volunteered on Saturday. This is probably a great opportunity for them to fulfill community service.The kids from NCCC are usually off on Saturday, some of them came out to work. I left at 11:30A to get ready to drive to Houston for my flight. Unfortunately, there were many storms all over the country, and my flight was delayed about four hours into ORD.(I will send the Few items worth mentioning:- Many of the victims from Katrina / Rita lived in homes that they may have inherited or were passed down from family members. Because of their personal economic conditions, many did not have or could not afford insurance on their homes. When their home was destroyed they really had little or no resources to fall back on, leaving them homeless.- Miss Bea. I forgot to mention, that not only was she without a home, raising her two daughters and caring for her handicapped mother but she was also involved in an automobile accident. Three years ago, while driving through north Dallas on a two lane road, a couple of kids were drag racing and hit her vehicle head on. The engine went through the firewall and crushed both of her legs. Fortunately, they were able to put rods in both her legs and do repairs to her face and injured arm. Though she has one ankle and some pain, she was there every day working off her hours.-Our Foreman- These four guys have patience that many companies envy. Every day brings them challenges with new people who have no idea what the hell they are doing in regards to building a home. Yet, they are upbeat and positive to keep everyone motivated and safe.There are so many more homes to be built on this block. There is going to be a blitz in October, where 3-5 homes are built in 6 days. They flood the site with as many volunteers as possible through various groups and organizations. I plan to return either for the blitz or to just continue where I left off.This week was eye opening for the three of us who worked together. Our physical presence at the work site meant so much to many people. They could not have been more appreciative over the fact that people who they never met, were willing to travel, spend time and money to help construct a home for their families. You could not ask for a better Thank You.

My Photos of Beamont/HFH


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