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Spotlight: Edith Arreguis

Milestone on a Long Road to Success

By Kathy Heinrichs Wiest

Edith Arreguis can already picture herself and her son, Leixander, enjoying their new home in Goshen, California, a small unincorporated community of 3,000 in Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley. Because options for safe, decent, and affordable housing are limited in Goshen, Edith turned to Self-Help Enterprises and its Mutual Self-Help Housing program to help her give a better life to her son. Self-Help Enterprises provided construction supervision and financial counseling to support Edith and 9 other families as they built their own homes.

Edith’s son, Leixander, and other children celebrate their new homes.

Edith’s son, Leixander, and other children celebrate their new homes.

Edith’s search for suitable housing for her son was a challenge. The waiting list was long for government subsidized housing. The cost of a mortgage on a house in a safe neighborhood was out of the question. So Edith and Leixander live in a small room in an apartment shared with Edith’s mom, stepdad, and three siblings.

The dream of providing a better life for her son carried Edith through the hard work required to build a Self-Help Home. Despite the struggles of being a single mother, Edith contributed over 1,300 hours to help build her home and the homes of 9 other families in the program. “Sometimes I’m here [working on the house] from 7 to 11 and then I run home and shower and get to my job. I might not see my baby till ten at night. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.”

For Edith, finishing and moving into her house is more of a milestone on her journey than an end goal in and of itself. She is eager to get settled because it means there will be time again to pursue her education. Her goal: to become a surgical nurse.

Building her own house allows Edith to provide a secure home for her son, and continue toward her career goals. “If I’d get a normal house, I wouldn’t be able to go to school because it would be too expensive,” she reflects. “There are a lot of people like me who can’t afford going to school, having a job, and paying their mortgage.” By building her own home under Self-Help Enterprises’ program, Edith was able to use her sweat equity as a down payment and save 10 percent on her mortgage loan. This translates into $100 less in bills each month that she can use to save for her son’s education or for a rainy day.

With these ambitious goals, Edith is well on the way to fulfilling her dream of providing a good life for her son. “Even though I am so tired,” she says, “I will never regret this opportunity.”

Self-Help Enterprises is largely credited with pioneering the concept of organized Mutual Self-Help Housing in the United States. Since 1965, SHE has served thousands of low-income, rural families in San Joaquin Valley, California and has served as the model for similar organizations around the world. Over 45 years, SHE has assisted over 5,779 families build their own homes in over 90 communities.