Walls rise on Penticton Habitat project

After a wetter than expected spring, work is finally underway once more on the Habitat for Humanity project in Penticton.

Volunteer Marvin Johnston measures a piece of lumber to be used on the Habitat for Humanity residential construction project on Huth Avenue this week.

Volunteer Marvin Johnston measures a piece of lumber to be used on the Habitat for Humanity residential construction project on Huth Avenue this week.

After a wetter than expected spring, work is finally underway once more on the Habitat for Humanity project in Penticton.

The slab that will form the floor of environmentally-friendly home on Huth Avenue was finally laid in mid-June and on July 21, volunteer crews were able to begin the framing work.

“We are going vertical, we are so happy. We have been hanging out at the horizontal stage since last fall,” said Merle Kindred, chair of the South Okanagan Habitat for Humanity chapter. A small work crew returned to work on the building midweek to finish the framing, in hopes of beginning work on the roof this Saturday.

“It is beginning to look like a house, there are some walls up,” said Lynn Popoff, vice-chair of the chapter. “Hopefully on Saturday, we will be able to have a crew working on the roof joists. It’s on its way.”

The group had planned to do some preliminary work on the build starting in April, with plans to lay the floor slab in May when the weather improved. But Mother Nature wasn’t co-operating.

“Given the kind of spring we had, we weren’t able to lay the slab until the middle of June,” said Kindred. After that was in and curing, Kindred said, they had to organize materials and volunteers. “The earliest we were able to start the framing of the walls was last Saturday. But if we can get the walls up in a week flat and we can get the roof well underway this coming Saturday, we will have done a tremendous amount of work in just over a week.”

But even though it is much hotter now, Kindred said that didn’t deter the volunteers that came out to help on July 21.

“Even when the heat got to 82 degrees, folks just weren’t slowing down. We brought in a cooler and ice and more water and folks just kept on working,” she said “There is a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement, about getting this house underway again.”

Even though they are now some two to three months behind their planned schedule, Kindred said they still hope to have the family in the house before the end of the year.

“We are still pressing for completion by winter. This family was selected in 2011 and if we get them in by winter, they will have been very patient and worked very hard and waited for two years to get into this house,” said Kindred. When they were selected, John Draus and April Tuford, along with their daughter Chloe, were the youngest family chosen so far by the local Habitat chapter, which is now on their third project. Chloe has now been joined by a younger brother. “Chloe is two and Nathan will be a year old in September, so there will be two very tiny children in this home.”

While the weather has been a challenge, Kindred said there is an even bigger challenge facing the project.

“We also have to do fundraising. We have some funds in place, and we have donated materials, discounted materials and labour coming from both professionals and volunteers,” said Kindred. “But we are still going to have to figure out how much material we have to buy. We are going to have to do some significant fundraising  by the end of the year.”

Fundraising, said Kindred, is an ongoing challenge — one that is getting harder.

“It is sad that we are simply in the situation, not only here in North America, but everywhere, where there is not enough money available for providing affordable housing for folks,” she said. “We are in a situation where more and more is being placed on the shoulders of civil society as governments are divesting themselves of services that were offered earlier. We are seeing a shift in the kind of money that is available for a lot of the things we need to provide a healthy and happy society for ourselves.”

Folks wishing to help fund Habitat projects or join up as volunteers are always welcome, Kindred said, adding that they can be contacted via email at info@habitatsouthokanagan.ca or by phone at 250-487-4888.