A surreal experience: Sabrina’s journey to home ownership.

Sabrina and her sons received their Habitat house keys in December of 2015.
Sabrina and her sons at their home at Neufeld Landing in Edmonton.

On a chilly December morning in 2015, Sabrina and her two sons arrived at Neufeld Landing, the biggest Habitat build in Canadian history. Their anticipation was brewing – it was “key day”: they were about to receive the keys to their new Habitat house in the 64-home development. Her partnership with Habitat required that she volunteer 500 hours and she had completed those hours and was ready to reap the rewards of all her hard work.

A few months earlier, life was different; it was much more difficult. Sabrina had lived in small condos and she wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to afford a house for her sons. She had heard about the Habitat program through her cousin, who encouraged her to apply. Her research led her to an information session, where she learned all the details of the Habitat program. Sabrina was invited to apply, and she submitted her application.
Weeks passed and Sabrina thought that she was likely passed over for another family in need. However, she decided to call the office to inquire. A Family Services Coordinator politely answered the phone. Sabrina asked her about her application and wanted to know how she could improve it for next time and to see why she wasn’t selected. The Coordinator quickly thumbed through her notes and said, “Actually, you have been approved. We were making our calls today. Congratulations!”

Shortly after she received the news, Sabrina began working her 500 volunteer hours, the majority of which she completed at the Habitat ReStore East. She helped unload donations and cleaned them before bringing them out to the sales floor. While completing her hours she met many volunteers and donors for whom she is extremely grateful.
When Sabrina received her house keys, joy filled her entire being. However, nothing could prepare her for how she would feel when she walked into her home. When the door opened, there was light everywhere! In her old home there were no windows in the kitchen, but here, in her Habitat home, there were many more windows for sunlight to pour through. In her words, the experience was “surreal”.

Today, life is much different for Sabrina’s family. Sabrina has strength; and stability. She is building a solid financial foundation for her and her sons, who are now 19 and 16 years old instead of 14 and 11. They’ve grown in myriad ways. They love their independence. They speak of how their old homes felt like hotel rooms, but how their Habitat home in Neufeld Landing feels like home. Indeed, they have a promising future ahead.

When they shut the door behind them to take their dog Waffles for walk, Sabrina and her sons are grateful to be homeowners. Whether they are enjoying their favorite family pastimes: playing board games, enjoying the outdoors, sitting around a campfire, or cooking together, they always know that, as Habitat for Humanity’s founder once said, they have a safe place to rest their heads on terms they can afford to pay.

Nine wonderful years in Anderson Gardens.

In August 2011, Getahun and Ergo received keys to their Habitat home in Anderson Gardens.
Nine years later, Getahun, Ergo, and family are still thriving in their Habitat home.

Nine years.

That’s how long Getahun, Ergo, and their 15-year old daughter and 13-year old son have been living in their Habitat home. Although they received the keys to their home on a warm August morning in 2011, their journey towards home ownership began years before.

Getahun and Ergo had moved from Brandon, Manitoba, a few years earlier and Getahun secured a job as a health-aide with Capital Health. During his time as a health-aide, he was asking his coworkers about social housing, as he and his family had lived in social housing in Brandon before their relocation to Edmonton. Instead of directing him to social housing, they told him he should look into the Habitat for Humanity program.

“What is Habitat for Humanity?” asked Getahun, not knowing that his question would lead to a better future for his family.

The couple explained Habitat’s affordable home ownership program, and so Getahun and Ergo went to the website to see if their family qualified for the program and – to their amazement – they did! After an information session, Getahun and Ergo submitted their application to become homeowners. Getahun recalled how Habitat came to the house they were renting in downtown Edmonton not once, but twice. He knew they were ensuring that Getahun and Ergo would take good care of a Habitat home should they be accepted into the program.

Soon thereafter, the phone rang. It was Habitat, and they told Getahun and Ergo that they were approved!

“We were really very happy because of the stability the home would provide for our family, and it was near my work,” said Getahun.

Once they were accepted into the program, Getahun strapped on safety boots and began volunteering his 500 hours at his future home: Anderson Gardens. His hours were filled with joy and he made special friends on the build site.

“I really appreciated the donors and volunteers,” said Getahun. “One said he’d volunteer his life for Habitat because the families deserve to be homeowners.”

It was a magical morning in August 2011 when the family received their keys, which were presented by Ken and Margaret Anderson, the generous couple who donated the land at Anderson Gardens to Habitat. At the time, Getahun’s and Ergo’s children were 5 and 7, and they were running around the house teeming with excitement – especially when they saw their new rooms.

Getahun said:
“Our children were and are very happy with our home and where we live. It is a quiet place and our neighbourhood is really great too. I am so thankful for Habitat because the opportunity has changed our lives. It gave me the opportunity to get my LPN (licenced practitioner nurse) and better our lives. My children have had a great place to live. I thank all the volunteers and donors who give to help families who are struggling to make their lives better and to help our children become more successful.”

Getahun mentioned that he didn’t have the words to say to express how much Habitat has done for his family. He wanted people to know that he is grateful for all that supporters have done to improve his family’s life.

Shelly’s Story

My name is Shelly, and I have two daughters. We own a Habitat “buy back” home in Edmonton’s Kirkness community. About four years ago I heard about Habitat for Humanity and how the program helps families. I did some research and realized, wow, the program had helped so many families get a new fresh start. I was amazed and thought an opportunity like the Habitat program would be so great for my daughters and me. Before Habitat, life was okay, but I never felt like we had a stable home because with renting you just don’t have stability.

I was renting an old home that was very cold in winter. I had to put plastic on the inside and outside of my windows to keep the cold out. We rented this house because it was all I could afford, and the rent was 50% net of what I was paid at work. Before being accepted into the Habitat program, owning my own home was only a dream. Now I own a beautiful, bright, clean, warm, safe and stable home, and it is my dream come true. To me, the most important thing about being a homeowner is safety and stability for my daughters and me. I have had many positive and fun experiences while completing my 500 volunteer hours, including meeting all those nice friendly volunteers at Habitat.

I remember my very first 8-hour shift at Restore North. My youngest daughter and I went to the lunchroom and saw a bulletin board with our family’s picture on it and it said “future homeowner”. I started to cry, and I said to my daughter this is real. The past few years I have shed more than a few happy tears. I am so, so thankful for all the hard work Habitat staff and volunteers do to make dreams like mine come true. Since owning our Habitat home life has been GREAT for us!

For those of you who support Habitat, thank you for all the amazing things you do to help families! All of us are grateful for all you do and are grateful that you are people with very big hearts.

A “hand up” in Edson


Jennifer and her husband Joseph used to rent a home in a four-plex in the community of Edson. It was a two bedroom house, but they could only utilize one of the rooms for sleeping, and so the family of four crammed into one room to sleep each night. They also had a communal washing machine with laundry available to them only one day a week. With young children, this set up was not ideal however, they made life work while they looked for a plan to move their growing family into a better situation. Jennifer had doubts that an opportunity would come available. They had been living in Edson since 2016, and nothing had come up. When she had almost abandoned hope, she heard about Habitat for Humanity.

She spoke to one of her friends who told her about her experience living in a Habitat home. She was told about all the benefits and was super excited about the prospect. However, the 500 hours of volunteer time seemed undoable. How would she complete the hours while taking care of her family? This question stopped her and Joseph for a quite a while, but then they decided to give it a go, and it was a great experience. The 500 volunteer hours ended up being an enriching experience for the couple. They helped with various tasks at the local museum and helped out during community events, such as Canada Day. When they completed their hours they felt empowered and were so proud.

Becoming homeowners has changed life for Jennifer and Joseph. Their children now enjoy playing outside more often. It is safer for them to be out in the front yard with a window for Jennifer to watch their 10-year old, 5-year old, and 2 year-old playing – and the bonus is that their lawn is not on a highway like their former home. Yes, safer indeed. And yet safety was just one way that benefited the family. There were other benefits that the couple noted.

Jennifer said, “We feel more secure and stable in our Habitat home. Since we own our home, we can do what we’d like without checking with a landlord. Now we can make changes without asking. It’s so nice having more freedom.”

The family really enjoys hiking and biking, and so they hope to be able to do even more of that in the summer months. When they’re not physically active, they enjoy just chilling around the house and watching TV and playing games with the kids.

The couple sends out a huge thank you to everyone who helped them become homeowners. The Habitat program has been transformational for their family, and they know that volunteers and donors continue to leave a lasting impact on so many others.

Family Moving into Habitat Home Excited for Stability – City TV coverage (April 9/20)

2019 AGM Postponed

Please note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Habitat Edmonton’s desire to protect our staff and membership, the AGM that was scheduled for April 28, 2020 has been postponed until further notice. Thank you for your understanding.

Habitat Edmonton COVID-19 response.

At Habitat Edmonton the well-being and safety of our families is our utmost priority. Given the outbreak of COVID-19 in Alberta, we are doing all we can to support all the families in our program as we navigate through this crisis.

To provide certainty and peace of mind to those involved in the ongoing litigation, we will be extending their tenancy agreements for at least three months and will continue to offer mediation services in hopes of reaching an amicable resolution to retain all families within our program. Should additional extensions be required they will be considered as needed as the situation evolves, but we would not do anything that jeopardizes the health and safety of those we serve during this public health crisis.

These changes will also give more time for the families to consider their options and to avoid disruption during this public health crisis. We would like to stress that we continue to offer mediation to our partner families and continue to respond, as always, in good faith to achieve an amicable resolution to this matter, either a negotiated resolution or an answer to the legal questions that the plaintiffs have sought.

We are closely following the announcements made by the Alberta Government and public health authorities regarding COVID-19 and our response with respect to this issue will be guided by their recommendations.

We remain hopeful and optimistic that these families will come to realize the significant benefits of the new mortgage model that we are offering them and that they will return to the program of affordable home ownership. Our ultimate goal is to continue to serve Albertans by providing housing to families in need and our new mortgage model is critically needed to allow us to continue to do that.