HOPE breaks new ground

ODELL -- Housing for People, Inc. (HOPE) broke ground on a self-help housing project Jan. 17. On hand were several representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Housing Service, who presented HOPE with a $10,000 grant to help fund the project.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) was also at the site, a nine-acre lot at the end of a cul-de-sac just north of Odell, to voice his support for the project.

"It's a delight to be here today and to watch HOPE continue to blossom," Walden said, adding that he remembered "the genesis" of the organization 12 years ago. HOPE was started to address the growing homeless population and lack of affordable housing after Hood River's last homeless shelter was forced to close for security reasons. Today, nearly 600 people reside in HOPE's affordable housing -- about 10 percent of the population of Hood River.

"(That) just tells you the need is so severe," Walden said.

The self-help housing project is the first of its kind in Hood River County -- and is one of only a few similar projects around the state. During the first phase of the project, eight families will work together -- along with a construction supervisor who will oversee the project -- to build eight homes. Each family must contribute 30 hours a week to the project.

"The families help each other out," said Ron Cohen, vice president of HOPE's board of directors. "It's sort of like an old-fashioned barn raising."

Like its other affordable housing units in Hood River, HOPE requires residents to qualify for the self-help program financially, then they must meet strict credit guidelines. Finally, they must be willing to commit to 30 hours of work on the houses each week. No one moves into their new home until all of the houses are finished.

According to Denise Endow, program manager for the self-help project, the families involved pay none of the costs of construction, but begin paying the mortgage as soon as they move in.

"That's what makes it possible for them," she said. The program also creates a community within the families involved. And, says Endow, the families gain not only homeownership -- something none of them has had before -- but also useful skills.

"It's definitely got that job training angle," she said.

Most of the eight families who will begin building their homes in the next few months are permanent-resident Hispanic families who have lived in the Hood River Valley for years.

Norberto Salamanca has lived here for 21 years, his wife, Teresa for 15. They came to the ground-breaking with their son, Israel. Through a translator, Endow told them where the homes would be placed, talked about the soil and joked with them about being able to pick their neighbors.

"You'll have a piece of Hood River," Endow said, stomping the ground. Salamanca laughed and looked out over the grass-covered lot sloping gently toward a farm in the distance.

Endow said the eight homes in the first phase of the project will likely be finished next spring. By then HOPE will be ready to launch the next phase, another eight homes. It is still taking applicants for the project. Call HOPE at 386-9144.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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