Habitat house raised with support from synagogues

Lisa Hebert outside the new Habitat house near Newburg Road. The dwelling was built financial support and “sweat equity” from all five local synagogues. built with synagogue support. (Community photo by Lee Chottiner)

Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville dedicated its 525th house on Saturday, Feb. 22, this one built for a Muslim family from Somalia with considerable help from Jewish Louisville.
All five synagogues contributed a total of $10,000 to the project, helping to build the 1,000-square-foot, bungalow-style house not far from Newburg Road. The synagogues decided to get behind the project last year during a meeting of the Louisville Council of Jewish Congregations. Other faith groups have also contributed.
In addition, members of Adath Jeshurun, Keneseth Israel, Temple Shalom and The Temple – worshippers and clergy alike – joined volunteers from churches, mosques and other faith groups on the “build days” for the house, helping with the masonry, putting up walls, interior work and a host of other jobs.
“I just wanted to help build a house for these people,” said Tami Penner of Temple Shalom, who spent a day painting at the house.
Lisa Hebert, director of community and faith relations for Habitat for Humanity, said the new owners, Ali and Slma, (their last name is withheld at Habitat’s request) will buy the house for $80,000 to $100,000 at 0 percent interest, which makes the dwelling affordable while saving them hundreds of dollars a month in rent.
Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working with volunteers in communities across the United States and approximately 70 countries to construct affordable housing for people in need of decent places to live.
Ali and Slma, who have three sons, ages 2, 4 and 6, came to Louisville about six years ago under a lottery system, and have been living in an apartment ever since. The father works for UPS.
Without Habitat and its volunteers, the family probably could not afford a house.
“They make enough money to afford this house,” Hebert said, “but not so much that they can go to a bank to get a mortgage.”
In addition to what they paid for the house, Ali and Slma put in 400 hours of “sweat equity” to secure the purchase, which includes homeowner classes (budgeting, mortgages, landscaping) and working on other houses as well as their own.
“They are supposed to have 200 hours done before their house even starts,” Hebert said.
In addition to building new houses, Habitat has also begun repairing existing homes, particularly in the Portland neighborhood, where many of its previous dwellings have gone up. The group also works on houses it did not build, helping the whole neighborhood.
This year, Habitat will do an all-women build, marking the centennial of the 19th Amendment.
Cantor Sharon Hordes of KI, who offered a blessing at one build day, said sheltering a person or a family is a holy act.
“Helping to shelter others is emulating the best, most compassionate qualities of God,” she said.

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