Single father breaks ground on new Habitat house

After series of setbacks, dad of two says 'dream has finally come true'

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

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Doug West didn’t give up.

A single father of two teenagers, he shared a room with his son in a two-bedroom rental, and home ownership was only a dream. He applied for the Habitat for Humanity program but lost his job in the construction industry while he was in the application process. Employment is a requirement for the program, which helps struggling families become homeowners.

Officials with Evergreen Habitat for Humanity group encouraged West to look for another job so they could proceed. West soon landed a new job in the same field but was laid off yet again. As discouraging as the second layoff was, “Doug just dug deep, went out, banged on doors and found another (construction) job,” Melissa Edwards, development and marketing coordinator for Evergreen Habitat, said Sunday.

That determination appeared to pay off for West, 45, who stood with his family Sunday at the site of what will soon be their new house. Surrounded by about 50 Habitat volunteers and sponsors, West and his children ceremoniously broke ground on the project, sinking pointed shovels into the dirt on their property in Vancouver’s Five Corners area. It’s just north of state Highway 500 and east of Interstate 205.

“I’ve had my ups and downs,” West said, but “our needs are met every time we get knocked down. This is truly a blessing.”

By this summer, the family will be able to move into their new home, a three-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot ranch-style house with two bathrooms and an attached garage. The house sits on a lot that’s about 7,000 square feet, which will give the family’s dog, Cinder, plenty of room to play. The property is on a cul-de-sac and near a C-Tran bus line.

It’s the 30th house Evergreen Habitat has constructed for a family in need, and it’s the first house the organization has built for a single father, according to Habitat. Edwards said West has been a joy to work with, and she noted his volunteer efforts in the addiction community. West said he has been clean and sober for nine years.

“We’re proud of him,” Edwards said.

The Habitat program requires families to put in at least 250 hours of labor on constructing the house. West has put in more than 100 hours already, according to Habitat. So far, the house’s foundation is in place. The work comes easily for West, who has 20 years of experience in construction, he said.

After the home is built, West will pay a mortgage with a 0 percent interest rate, according to Habitat. The sponsors on the West family’s project include several Presbyterian and United Methodist churches and the Vancouver-based Ginn Realty Group.

West said his sister also lives in a Habitat House, in Sequim. Despite the grueling application, West encouraged other families who are stuck in a renter’s rut to apply.

“It’s a very lengthy, revealing process and it requires the ultimate transparency,” West said, adding that he supplied tax returns, his credit history and told his employer about his application process. “It really digs deep, and that’s why a lot of people don’t go through the program. … It is absolutely and totally worth it.”

West’s parents have died, but “I know both of my parents would have been proud of me,” he said. West’s daughter, Cheyenne, is 15, and his son, Kody, is 17.

“I’m a little overwhelmed,” West said. “This is a big deal. This is a really big deal. The dream has finally come true.”