Habitat for Humanity builds again, in Lents Neighborhood

Discover why this faith-based group once again practices the ‘Theology of the Hammer’ in Southeast Portland …

With a “1, 2, 3, Heave”, workers lift a wall in place as a new SE Portland Habitat for Humanity residence starts to take shape.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
With the worldwide banking meltdown, and the current economic downturn, very few new residential homes are being built right now. The exception is in SE Portland, a block south of SE Woodstock Blvd. where, before long, seven families will be moving into new homes.

“Because Habitat for Humanity Metro Portland East serves as the banker, mortgage broker and the homebuilder,” explained their executive director Steve Messinetti, “we’re able to provide low-income homeowners with no-interest mortgages that allow them to buy a home, develop equity, and become part of the community.”

Habitat for Humanity executive director Steve Messinetti, standing with the development’s new homeowners, says providing good-quality housing for folks of modest means is more important now than ever.

‘Theology of the Hammer’ in action
Habitat for Humanity is unashamedly a Christian-based organization, Messinetti reminded us, which also works with corporate partners to provide home ownership to hard-working folks who want to permanently join the community as neighbors.

“We have people from eight different faith-based groups here working side-by-side,” Messinetti said at the “wall raising party” on not long ago. “This is because of what we call our ‘Theology of the Hammer’.  We can disagree on which church to attend or which political party to support – but we all agree on the common mission of swinging a hammer to build housing for families who need it.”

Bill Gates, pastor of Parkrose United Methodists Church, tells why he believes in the “theology of the hammer”.

Helpers come from greater East Portland
When we saw Pastor Bill Gates from Parkrose United Methodists Church take a break, we asked why his group comes to inner SE Portland to help out.

“I believe in the theology of a hammer,” Gates told us. “We have a team of 14 of us from our fellowship here today. It’s wonderful to be able to work in our community, and help in a tangible way.

Development manager, Shannon Tennant, says new homeowners must work alongside of volunteers as a condition of purchasing a new home.

Lisa Timmerman – she volunteers one Saturday each month – tightens the first bolt that will hold the wall to the foundation of the new building.

Not a hand-out program
“We’ve never been a handout program,” noted the organization’s development manager, Shannon Tennant. “We provide a helping hand up to hard-working families. Each new homeowner must contribute at least 500 hours of ‘sweat equity’ to this or other projects.”

When the projects are built, added Tennant, the participants will purchase their home with a zero-interest, 1%-down mortgage. The principal from those payments will be used to help build more homes in Portland area.

At the SE Martins Street building site, seven town homes – a triplex and a quadplex – will be standing when the project is completed.

Hundreds of volunteers turn out to “raise the walls” of each new Habitat for Humanity project.

“These are roomy houses,” Tennant stated. “The two-bedroom units are 900 square feet each, and the four bedrooms are 1,400 square feet each. We are thankful for the many contributors who support our work, and make it possible to provide high-quality housing.”

If you want to learn more, to contribute – or to swing a hammer, CLICK HERE to visit their website.

Representing Stanford’s Restaurants, providing delicious box lunches for all of the volunteers, are Henry and Monica Marcum, Rick, Tina, Madison and Taylor Brady, and Chris Hein.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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