January 23, 2013 - It's crunch time for Habitat for Humanity in Clarkston.
DJ, Kaleena, and their children are working to find a new home in Clarkston. Photo provided (click for larger version)
Paperwork's complete, a family's willing to work, and volunteers and community groups are ready to pitch in – all that's needed is some property.
"It's down to the wire. We need to find property in Clarkston," said Stephanie Osterland, director of family and community relationships for Habitat for Humanity. "We're looking for any sort of property, vacant land, housing – we're still hopeful."
DJ, Kaleena and their children Bryce, 6, and Brina, 8 months, have been working with Habitat for Humanity for more than a year to secure a new home for their family.
"Unfortunately, it's been slow," DJ said. "We were ready to go at the end of the summer."
If the Jan. 31 deadline passes, they will consider surrounding communities. But they really want Clarkston.
With her grandparents and mother hailing from Independence Township, this is where Kaleena grew up.
"It's like home," she said. "We were always at my grandparents' house."
Growing up, she attended Clarkston Free Methodist Church and enjoyed getting ice cream at Sashabaw and Maybee roads.
They both work outside the home, DJ fulltime, and are qualified to buy an at-cost, no-profit home through Habitat for Humanity.
They applied and were approved more than a year ago. Eligibility is based on need, income, credit, consistent bill payment, and willingness to put in sweat equity, Osterland said.
To qualify, a family provides 300 hours of work, including 100 hours from each parent. The third hundred can come from friends and family.
Kaleena worked most of her hours at Lighthouse, completing paperwork for families in need.
DJ performed landscape and home maintenance work for his hours.
"The nice thing is they put hours in on their own home," Osterland said. "They help at the office, with houses, they've become part of Habitat community."
"It's wonderful, a blessing," Kaleena said. "It's a great opportunity to help someone better themselves."
In 2012, Habitat helped 19 Oakland County families close on homes.
Since 1994, the non-profit group built or renovated homes for 165 families in Oakland County. This will be the first project in Clarkston.
"It's for families interested in helping themselves and improving their own lives," Osterland said. "It's a hand up, not a hand out, a stepping stone, a vehicle to help them get where they need to go."
The family has been living in Auburn Hills for the last three years. Their trailer is in disrepair with a large hole in the floor covered by plywood, as well as mold, heating, and plumbing problems, and other issues.
"The house isn't good – we did a lot of work just to make it livable," DJ said.
A $35,000 gift has already been donated for the family's home. Habitat's goal is to have a house or lot by Jan. 31 so they can move in by summer.
My Habitat Clarkston, a committee of churches, chamber of commerce, community groups, and schools, stands ready to help.
The committee organized a benefit concert featuring Alexander Zonjic and Friends after Taste of Clarkston last year, and is ready to help with the next step.
Habitat is looking for donation or sale of a 1,200-1,500-square-foot home valued at $150,000 or less, or vacant property valued at less than $150,000, within Clarkston school district. Call Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, 248-365-4076 or 734-891-3352.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.