Habitat for Humanity dedicates homes to families of special needs kids

Struggling to make ends meet, supporting five kids and putting more than half of their monthly pay into rent, Jeffrey Dumlao and his wife, Suzanne, often faced their biggest challenge at the end of each day.

Gezai Gebrekidan, left, and the Dumlao family, from left, mom Suzanne holding Jacob, Zoe, dad Jeffrey, Finley, Carmella and Autumn, along with grandmother Lili Desjardins, all pose in front of their new homes during a double dedication ceremony by Habitat for Humanity for families with special needs children in the Redstone neighbourhood Wednesday November 9, 2016. Ted Rhodes Photo Postmedia Calgary

Gezai Gebrekidan, left, and the Dumlao family, from left, mom Suzanne holding Jacob, Zoe, dad Jeffrey, Finley, Carmella and Autumn, along with grandmother Lili Desjardins, all pose in front of their new homes during a double dedication ceremony by Habitat for Humanity for families with special needs children in the Redstone neighbourhood Wednesday November 9, 2016. Ted Rhodes Photo Postmedia Calgary

Eva Ferguson, Calgary Herald November 9, 2016

Exhausted from work, home-schooling and family chores, they faced the strain of carrying their disabled 12-year-old daughter Autumn up a steep flight of stairs to bed.

“It was becoming really difficult, sometimes very dangerous,” said father Jeffrey Dumlao.

“But she cannot walk or talk, and sometimes she shakes. We are not sure if it is seizures. But there have been many times when my wife or I would almost fall with her down the stairs.”

Autumn was born with cerebral palsy and a chromosome disorder that prevents her from walking, meaning most of her day is spent in a wheelchair.

But Wednesday’s home dedication with Habitat for Humanity has suddenly shone a new light on Autumn and her family.

Suzanne Dumlao holds her daughter Autumn during a double dedication ceremony of habitat for Humanity homes for families with special needs children in the Redstone neighbourhood Wednesday November 9, 2016. Autumn suffers from a chromosome deficiency. Ted Rhodes Photo Postmedia Calgary

Suzanne Dumlao holds her daughter Autumn during a double dedication ceremony of habitat for Humanity homes for families with special needs children in the Redstone neighbourhood Wednesday November 9, 2016. Autumn suffers from a chromosome deficiency. Ted Rhodes Photo Postmedia Calgary

The Dumlaos will soon be the proud owners of a three-storey, five-bedroom duplex in the new community of Redstone on the city’s far northeastern edge.

The new home includes a spacious kitchen, den and basement play area, and Autumn will get her own wheelchair-accessible bedroom and bathroom on the main floor.

“This will make our lives so much better, so much easier,” said Suzanne, as her three younger daughters jumped and played at her feet.

“It will be great for Autumn, too. She is so cheeky, she has so much personality,” added Jeffrey.

“She smiles all the time, especially when she knows her sisters are getting in trouble.”

The Dumlaos will move out of their cramped three-bedroom rental in Huntington Hills next week.

While they had considered getting a lift for the steep flight of stairs in the past to help get Autumn to bed, being renters made it difficult.

Home-ownership is one of many reasons Habitat for Humanity homes give families the independence and flexibility they need to live better lives, said Michelle Rhode, director of family and volunteer services with the organization in southern Alberta.

“There’s a real growing demand for affordable housing in this city,” Rhode said.

“And there’s a lack of opportunity for some families to live in homes that meet their unique needs. But we can offer ownership for those families that are working hard everyday to make ends meet.”

The Dumlaos will be one of two families to become homeowners with Habitat for Humanity later this month, duplexes priced at $325,000 and $345,000 respectively. Both are uniquely designed to meet the special needs of children in each family.

The need for affordable housing is defined by a family income that is below the poverty line. Homeowners partner with Habitat by contributing 500 hours of volunteer labour to help with the construction of their home. They are required to repay the Habitat mortgage through a stable income covering monthly mortgage payments.

Habitat for Humanity broke ground on its first home in Canada in 1985. Now, each year about 70,000 volunteers work with 56 Habitat for Humanity affiliates nationwide, helping break the cycle of poverty for hundreds of low-income Canadian families.

Source Calgary Herald

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