New Habitat for Humanity multiplex offers home, security and accomplishment

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
September 10th, 2012

James Elliott fought back a few tears of joy as he spoke to a crowd of more than 50 people who gathered to celebrate the opening of the Habitat for Humanity Boundary multiplex, Saturday, Sept. 8.

James, 25, will be living in unit #3 in the multiplex. As an active member of the community who works multiple jobs and is known for his volunteerism, this project suited James very much.

“This was an amazing experience and I never thought I’d own my own home at 25,” James told the crowd.

I can’t find the words to describe how truly fortunate and grateful I feel right now … Now we are homeowners we have a number of opportunities like being able to invite my parents over for Sunday dinner.

“I have no words to say how pleased, impressed and amazed I am in all of this,” said Christy Luke, James’s step mom. “For James it means a final step in confirming how much of a loved member of the community he is.”

The new building is more than a home for James but future security, which also makes Luke happy.

“James has been able to carve out a place for himself in the community,” said Mike Elliott, James’s dad.

Mike said James was approached by Habitat for Humanity at the beginning of this project. Although James has been living on his own for the past 18 months, James said it’s hard to get ahead on minimum wage jobs, no matter how many of them you have.

“This opportunity is fabulous. James has been so excited. It has really brought him into his own confidence and self reliance,” said Mike.

James joins six other adult men with developmental disablities who worked more than 500 hours each to help construct their new home.

The building, located at 833 72nd Avenue in Grand Forks, is the first of it’s kind in Canada. It was built as a sustainable home with seven one and two bedroom apartments in addition to several common rooms. The home was built to Built Green Gold standards and was made possible by huge community and government donations, including $242,016 provided by the provincial government from the sale of Hardy View Lodge in Grand Forks.

“What an amazing building,” said Terry Petkau, the national director of building services for Habitat of Humanity Canada during the opening ceremony. “The home that this will provide to these seven gentlemen is a feat unto itself … You (Habitat for Humanity Boundary) are leaders in this area and I hope you have challenged other affiliates to take the challenge of building greener.”

Rick Friesen, Habitat for Humanity Boundary executive director was as clearly overwhelmed by the success of the project as the new homeowners. He was so proud of them he choked up several times during the presentation.

“This project has taught us how to and how not to make concrete forms,” joked Friesen.

 It has also taught us that when you respond to a specific need in the community, the support and encouragment is overwhelming.

The project began in 2009 when the parents of the men who will be living in the new house asked Habitat for Humanity Boundary to help them build affordable housing for their adult developmentally disabled children.

“(The board) decided we could not descriminate against individuals if they met the criteria we have.” The construction had to be something the young men could afford and be a green building, a challenge Habitat for Humanity Boundary volunteers “felt was unlikely, but we’d give it a shot”, said Friesen.

The organization got a building permit in June 2011 and began building right away. Among the volunteers who worked on the project was the first ever international Habitat for Humanity volunteer to the Boundary. The man, from France, spent one month on the project.

“I commend Habitat for Humanity Boundary for all the work they do and the pace at which you have built this project is second to none,” said John Slater, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen.

Since Habitat for Humanity Boundary started in 1996 they have built seven homes for low-income families, five single-family dwellings and one duplex. The non-profit organization has received three awards for producing the most new builds per capita in Canada — one to two buildings annually per 10,000 population.

While the list of donators is huge, some major local contributors included Interfor, who donated all the wood for the project and then some, Roxul for the insulation, Emcon, Bill Schwabb Electric, Doug Henshaw Plumbing and Heating, CUPE and Tony Boschmann Drywall.

The City of Grand Forks donated the land and waived all developmental and servicing fees and Gospel Chapel donated $10,000.

The new homeowners are set to move in a few weeks after the finishing touches have been made on their home.

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