On the morning of Sept. 8, 2020, the Almeda Fire swept through the Rogue Valley in Oregon within a matter of hours, destroying more than 2,600 homes between Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford. It was the most destructive wildfire in Oregon’s recorded history.
Priscilla and her family were among the thousands affected by this catastrophic event. She, her husband, Hector, and their five children lost their home and were left with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Hector, who is self-employed, lost all the tools and supplies for his landscaping business. The family desperately needed a place to live.
“We were owners of a manufactured home before the fire, and after losing everything, we were renting a house for about a year,” said Priscilla. “Then we moved to a FEMA temporary trailer.” The trailer was small, cramped and inefficient and the family paid a significant amount of their income in rent.
Seeking financial relief and a permanent home for her family, Priscilla heard about Habitat for Humanity Rogue Valley’s home ownership program from two close friends. She applied and was relieved to be accepted. She completed financial and homeowner education classes and volunteered at the Habitat ReStore.
Priscilla and her husband assisted in the construction of their home, working many hours alongside sponsors and volunteers. In fact, a policeman who helped the family escape the fire became a key volunteer in building the home.
After completing more than 500 sweat equity hours, Priscilla and her family finally moved into their own brand-new home days before Christmas 2022, which made a perfect gift for her children Jose, 17; Romelia, 16; Brissia, 14; Pedro, 8; and Mateo, 6.
Priscilla’s new home in Phoenix was built as part of Habitat for Humanity’s BuildBetter with Whirlpool initiative, an expansion of Habitat’s existing BuildBetter program that will build more than 250 climate-resilient and energy-efficient homes that will help hundreds of families in need of affordable housing over three years.
Her new four-bedroom, two-bathroom home has low-flow shower heads, sinks, faucets and toilets, which use less water than regular fixtures. In addition, there is extra insulation, LED lighting and the home is solar ready, which will make it easy to install rooftop solar panels should the family desire to do so in the future. The family also received an energy-efficient refrigerator and range, which Whirlpool Corporation donates to every Habitat-built home in North America.
“Moving to this house and having new appliances is a big relief because we don’t have to worry about buying something so essential,” said Priscilla.
Priscilla realizes that having her own home is life changing. It’s wonderful “not renting and feeling like you’re throwing your money away and feeling that the home you live in is yours,” she said. “And the life of my children is a change for good to have their own room.”