“Even decades from now, after we die, our son will remember what we did to give him a home,” said Moises Fonseca in the comfortable living room of his new home. His six-year old son, also named Moises, smiled shyly at his dad.
Moises and his wife Juanita spent eight months working after hours and on weekends to build their home and that of the other eight families in the Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) mutual self-help housing group. Moises remembers that he didn’t have even one day off for those eight months. It didn’t matter. He was motivated the entire time, regardless of fatigue, by the realization that he had to put his all into the project because the prize at the end was so precious.
The road to homeownership for the Fonsecas was almost as winding as the one leading to what he calls their “home in the sky.” Moises first applied to be part of Rural Development’s Mutual Self-help Housing program in 2008.
“The program sounded so good—working for a home and helping your neighbors at the same time. But our credit was bad so we couldn’t qualify,” Moises explained. With the help of Gaby Pacheco of Rural Development and the counseling staff of CPLC, Moises and Juanita spent three years paying off debts and getting their credit in order. In 2011, they finally qualified for a home.
Moises says he never lost hope that they would qualify. But he says even now he awakens sometimes and has to shake himself to realize that the beautiful home in which he has awakened is his own.
“When I look around and think of all of the families that helped work on my home…as we all did on all of the homes…I realize that a piece of each of families is part of the spirit of this house,” he added.
Moises became the leader of the family groups—in part because of his ability to organize people and in part because of his focus. He says that every weekend when the group got together to start working he would tell them to envision their home at the end—to keep that final vision in their sights to keep their enthusiasm up. He also noted that everyone learned so much. “Now we can all build a house!,” he said proudly.
The Fonsecas had been renting for the past 15 years. The credit counseling they received while clearing up their debts have made them conscientious money managers now. Moises said that a 30-year mortgage is a big responsibility, but that thanks to CPLC’s counseling he is confident that they will do fine.
Juanita disappeared into the spacious kitchen. She was cooking up lunch for the folks who were there. She said she is thrilled to have her OWN home…and she chuckled at the idea that she went from washing windows to framing and installing them!
The younger Moises stuck shyly to his parents sides during our visit. When we went outside to look at the magnificent view from the hillside where the Fonsecas house was built, his dad told about the perfect lot they received, saying that each lot was numbered and a corresponding number was put into a pot for each family to draw from. Young Moises was given the job of pulling the lot number for the Fonsecas. It was the beautiful lot on the top of the mountain. “He was good luck for us,” said his dad. “The views are spectacular, especially when storms blow in or when the moon raises from behind the mountains”.
As a housewarming gift, the Fonsecas were given a large planter, vegetable seeds, potting mix, gloves and instructions on how to help feed a family in a square foot of garden space. They were excited! “We like to eat fresh vegetables…and we hope to one day build a greenhouse down the slope.” For now, they can get started with lettuce, carrots and greens in their own new “patio plot”.
Before we left, Moises said that he wants to be sure people know to never give up on their dreams of owning their own home. “We didn’t and were able to construct our home, add to our community and instill the values of hard-work and perseverance into our son—all through this program.”