Homeowners, Habitat for Humanity, build a house tailored to special needs of family

By Will Campbell, Columbian staff writer

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After 500 hours of building houses, Soreya and Tino Beltran received the keys to their own home on Sunday. It’s a big upgrade for the family from their two-bedroom apartment, holding their five kids, including one with special needs who uses a wheelchair.

“This is so surreal that I never even imagined that this would come to reality,” Soreya said.

The family gained the house through a program called Evergreen Habitat for Humanity, which gathers volunteers and donations to build houses for families earning between 30 to 60 percent of the median income. The families help pay for the house partly by helping build it or other houses.

The hours the Beltrans spent building are counted as the down payment on their house at 1110 SE 77th Court. They have a 30-year mortgage and the house is valued at $285,000, according to Courtney Patterson, construction site coordinator for Evergreen Habitat for Humanity.

Patterson designed the Beltrans’ house specifically for the family’s son, Mario, 8, who is missing a part of a chromosome, causing mental and physical disabilities. Because Mario uses a wheelchair, Patterson included wider halls and doorways, a barrier-free shower and no stairs.

The Beltrans struggle with stairs in their current two-bedroom apartment. With no elevator access, they have to haul Mario’s wheelchair up and down stairs.

“It’s a lot of carrying up and down,” Soreya said. “It’s really hard getting him around.”

And with five boys, they’re feeling crowded, Soreya said, so moving into this house will help. Soreya is a stay-at-home mom and Tino works for the Al Angelo Company as lead maintenance technician.

The house is in a court roundabout with spots for nine other houses. One other house is finished with residents living in it. All 10 will eventually house families who helped build them through the Evergreen Habitat for Humanity program.

The Beltrans’ future neighbors were at the dedication. Tiffany Hauxhurst and Dakota Palmore have worked alongside the Beltrans in building other homes in the neighborhood. Hauxhurst and Palmore expect to move into each of their homes before Christmas.

“Rent is very expensive right now and it’s really hard to live,” Hauxhurst said. “Stability is what it means to me.”

Palmore said a bonus to building a home here is the opportunity to move into a place already knowing your neighbors.

“Our bond is going to be pretty tight,” Palmore said. “I can just see summer barbecues and garage sales.”

The homes are sold at no profit with zero percent interest.

The Beltrans’ house was also built through a subprogram in Evergreen Habitat for Humanity, called Women Build. The program teaches women skills, such as framing, siding and installing windows, in a supportive atmosphere.

“The whole point of Women Build is to be able to empower women to learn building skills in an environment where they feel comfortable doing it,” Patterson said. “That’s been the best part for me because I’ve gotten to actually build alongside all the women.”

A total of 353 volunteers, mostly women, helped with the Beltrans’ house, putting in 2,996 hours. That includes volunteers from sponsors PeaceHealth and Providence, which had employees volunteer for 700 hours combined. Lowe’s and Vancouver Grocery Outlet also helped with donations.