|Praying for a home before handing it over to the new residents.|
The Bubble Home Project is one of our most successful community outreach programs here in Laredo, TX. In short, through this project 41 poor families received a mobile home remodeled to meet their needs. This, however, was not a hand-me-down freebie for these families. We like to call this a hand-me-up opportunity.
The project was the brain-child of local congressman Henry Cuellar of the 28th District of Texas. When Congressman Cuellar heard that the government mobile homes used for Hurricanes Ike and Rita were being sold for offices, he thought of a better use. He believed these homes could house some of Laredo’s poorest. In Cuellar’s search for an agency to administer this project, he did not find any takers because whoever took on the task would have to come up with their own funding. It was local Christian churches and organizations that actually stepped up to the plate.
New Vision Community Church brought this idea to life along with Laredo Stepping Stone Ministries and Christ Church Episcopal. The only guarantee we had from the Congressman was that if we could cover the transportation costs and pay the required fees to the government, the ownership of the mobile homes would be transferred over to the recipients. All those fees came to approximately $7000 per trailer. When the project began we had $0. By project’s end, we would raise over $287,000!! All this was made possible through prayer, dedication of all the volunteers, the belief that God would provide, and the giving hearts of all those people that donated. We took used, unwanted mobile homes and transformed them into new homes for needy families.
The Congressman’s vision was not misplaced. Poverty in some parts of Laredo resembles third world conditions. There are families living in places without basic needs where sometimes a family of four or five will live in a single room. A mobile home presents a new start for families who live in these deplorable conditions. That is why we at New Vision knew it was a worthwhile and godly endeavor although there would be many mountains to move.
The Application Process
Once we took ownership of the Bubble Home Project, then began the process of developing a way that families could apply to receive a home. We knew that we did not want to give “freebies” to families. We wanted these families to be held accountable and for them to take responsibility for making this happen. Townhall meetings were set up to inform potential applicants of the requirements for application. It was not surprising many dropped out once they understood what it would entail.
|Sample of the Decorations Inside|
Some of the requirements made of each family included US citizenship and/or legal residency, random drug testing, criminal background checks, mandatory training sessions, community hours to include fundraising, and help in transforming the mobile homes. Upon receiving the homes, they would be under a 24 month probationary period before the deed would be officially transferred into their name. In the end, 44 families were chosen. Three ended up losing their homes by not meeting the requirements of the probationary period. And although it saddened us, we knew these homes needed to go to individuals that were willing to put forth the effort to begin a new life. All in all, 41 families received homes.
When we received the homes they were not in the best conditions. These homes had to be thoroughly cleaned and we made plans to provide the homes completely furnished. A lot of thought went into how to decorate the home for each family. A professional photograph was also taken of each family upon acceptance of their application and the photograph would then be framed and placed in the home.
Where We Are Today
As of today, 17 families have completed probationary period and met their requirements and we are in the process of transferring the deeds. We are extremely proud of their accomplishments and all that they have learned through the process. As part of the program and part of the mandatory training they needed to receive was instruction in specific trades to give them skills that they could use to economically support themselves. The men received classes in welding and plumbing while the women received classes, in sewing, cooking and baking. Not only they did receive these classes, they also got the opportunity to put these skills to use. Many of the women sewed and baked and sold their items at the Laredo farmers market as a way to fund raise. The head of households also received money management courses and we are proud to say that as of today 50% of our families are now debt free!!
Paying it Forward
Our motto was “hand-me-up” which was a pay-it-forward attitude. Every family that received a home would then help with the next family’s home. That help would include cleaning and putting to use the skills they learned in their classes (i.e. plumbing, welding, sewing, etc). The families as a whole were also responsible for forming a group and through their own elections picked a president, vice-president, and treasurer. The group was made responsible for planning and executing fundraisers. We felt that getting the families involved in this way would not only help them understand civic duty, but also give them a sense of ownership for making this happen.
There are two Bible verses at work here:
II Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
This project began on November 9, 2009 the date of our first fundraiser. Almost three years later, we were able to get 41 families into homes. At the beginning, we would have never thought we would be able to raise enough money to get these many homes. Yet, through God’s grace, hard work, and the belief that in the end God would provide, we did it!
Thanks to everyone that made this happen: Randy Leyendecker at Stepping Stone Ministries, Pastor Paul Frey at Christ Episcopal Church, Jaime Arizpe at Health and Human Services Commission Offices and Roger Creery at the Laredo Developmental Foundation. Also thank you to all the Christian artists who donated their time and CDs in the fundraising efforts; local foundations, ministries and churches that donated money; and to our mission teams that worked hard to clean and decorate the mobile homes. This was truly a community effort.
Watch our Video to see the impact this effort made.
Look for our future blogs for the stories of the individual families and their growth through this process.