Habitat, GDK, future homeowners celebrate first housing development for adults with disabilities

Brenda Martinez has dreamed of owning her own home since she was a child. 

An accident 25 years ago seemed to derail all of her dreams, but Wednesday afternoon, she and three other future homeowners cut the ribbon at Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity’s Haven Townhomes — a five-unit townhome development designed for single adults with disabilities.

The five townhomes, 12761 Felch St., are ADA compliant one-bedroom units, built in partnership with GDK Construction.

“This is the first time Lakeshore Habitat has focused on building a development for single adults with disabilities — a marginalized group who struggles to find affordable housing,” says Don Wilkinson, executive director of Lakeshore Habitat of Humanity. 

Four of the five homeowners have been selected with the fifth going through the selection process now. 

After Martinez’s accident, doctors told her she would never be the same. She went from using a wheelchair to walking and talking again, but life hasn’t been easy. She repeated high school and had to drop out of college without enough money to continue. Her life has turned around since she began attending church and a peer-mentorship program from Community Action House.

“I like my new neighbors and am glad we all go to church and that we can all be friends,” Martinez told the crowd gathered at the homes Wednesday afternoon. “If my neighbors have problems, I can try to help them. I like listening. I really like supporting people, and I will do that in my new community.”

She added she is looking forward to cooking for her new neighbors as well.

The four new homeowners have participated in classes and volunteer hours together as a part of their agreement with Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity.

“You get the four of them together, and it’s like they’re been best friends forever,” Development Director Dave Rozman says.

Haven Christian Reformed Church in Zeeland sold the property to Habitat and volunteers from the church helped erect the gazebo and storage shed on the property. Each new homeowner will pay a monthly mortgage of no more than 30% of his or her income. Financial literacy and home maintenance classes are helping each one to become more independent, officials say.
A well-wisher hugs future homeowner John, right, who is one of five selected for Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity's Haven Townhomes, specifically geared toward single adults with disabilities.
Each of the future homeowners has spent numerous hours volunteering on Habitat construction sites and in the ReStore to complete their required sweat equity time. Each future homeowner worked with a Habitat volunteer to paint his or her front door their own unique paint color, a Lakeshore Habitat tradition.

“When I found out I was going to be a Habitat homeowner, I was overwhelmed,” says Leah, a future Haven Townhome homeowner. “For the longest time, I was in a survival mindset, so much so that I had forgotten what it was like to actually live. Now, I am working to become more financially secure and independent thanks to this program. I am so looking forward to owning my own home!”

Many of the contractors that worked with GDK offered in-kind donations of materials or more than competitive prices.

“We had a really wonderful time working with Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity on this project,” says Director of Construction at GDK Construction Chad Geenen. “The experience has been truly fulfilling, and we are immensely grateful for the opportunity to contribute to such a meaningful cause. This collaboration has been a remarkable journey, fostering a strong bond between the two organizations and leaving a positive impact on our community.”

Key support for Haven Townhomes came from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, The Meijer Foundation and Haven Christian Reformed Church.

Homeowners are selected by Lakeshore Habitat’s homeowner selection committee, which meets monthly and uses standard selection criteria in a way that does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age, handicap, religion, marital status, or because all or part of the applicant’s income is derived from public assistance programs. 

Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit Christian organization in Holland with a mission to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope. 

Those interested in supporting this or other developments, may visit lakeshorehabitat.org/ways-to-give or contact Rozman at 616.393.8001 x106 or drozman@lakeshorehabitat.org.
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