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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 3:46 am | Fair 46º


Habitat Team Raises First Wall on Westside Housing Project

Residents soon will realize the dream of owning a home with four units under way on San Pascual

A dozen volunteers hoisted the first wall of a Santa Barbara housing project skyward Friday, commencing construction on four new homes to be built by Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County.

The project is nestled in a working-class Westside neighborhood, at 618 San Pascual St., where most nearby families rent their homes. That’s about to change for the four families who will call the project home after December, the targeted completion date.

In an expensive town like Santa Barbara, future resident Raquel Do Carmo doesn’t take that for granted. She attended Friday’s wall-raising and talked with Noozhawk about her future.

The four homes — a one-bedroom and three two-bedroom homes — will house 14 people, including Do Carmo, who is a single mother with a 5-year-old and currently lives in housing at St. Vincent’s. She said the fact that she’ll have a place of her own to share with her daughter is still sinking in.

“I never thought (owning a home) would happen,” she said. “I wouldn’t have gotten a chance like this otherwise.”

Habitat for Humanity requires that families put “sweat equity” into the homes, meaning they help build the houses in which they’ll be living. Do Carmo put in her first shift last Saturday, working for four hours on the construction site.

The project received its permits in December, and since then, volunteers have been hustling to get the project under way. The long, narrow lot on San Pascual presented some challenges for builders, according to site manager Justin Lassahn of Frank Schipper Construction. Massive amounts of topsoil had to be removed from the site, and concrete walls needed to be built on each side of the property before construction could begin.

Now that the first wall stands tall and the project has finally gone “3-D,” it’s all worth it, said Joyce McCullough, Santa Barbara Habitat’s executive director.

“All the hopes and dreams of planning and design work are finally done, and here we are,” she said. “It’s so fun.”

Neighbors of the project also have been supportive of all the construction. McCullough tells of two older women who stopped to look in on the construction one day while passing by. When McCullough’s husband briefed the pair on the goals of the project, they were ecstatic, she said.

“Those ladies were so excited that it was an ownership project,” she said.

Janet Garufis, president and chief executive officer of Montecito Bank & Trust, who has worked on fundraising for the project, also was at the site Friday morning.

“Everybody deserves a safe and affordable place to live,” she said. The fundraising campaign isn’t finished, and Garufis is working on getting groups not only to pledge money for the project, but to volunteer.

“It feels very personal that way,” she said.

The whole project at San Pascual is littered with those personal touches. As Garufis was talking, a worker carried several two-by-fours, covered in signatures and well-wishes penned at a recent fundraiser.

Just because the walls are going up doesn’t mean the need for volunteers has diminished, however. Help is still needed Wednesdays through Saturdays at the site. Click here to sign up to help at the site’s newly launched volunteer calendar.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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