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'Our labor not only built or restored a house, but it brought them home to Forest Grove.'

Over a short three weeks, I helped build a home for someone I hardly knew with a group of volunteers I also wasn't familiar with, and in the end, I felt a part of the Forest Grove community.

Interim term students at Pacific University can take courses ranging from science to civic engagement for two credits each. Being a senior in search of my own home post-undergrad, and fulfilling my core requirements in time, I decided to take "Action for Affordable Housing."

Part of our curriculum is to not only learn what is happening in our community concerning housing, but also take action in promoting positive change. According to Point-in-Time, Washington County has 544 homeless individuals, with 68 percent of them in unsheltered conditions. Part of the reason for such large numbers in homeless individuals has to do with the fact that the cost of housing in Washington County and Portland continues to rise. The cost of living in a stable home can become unobtainable for some as most individuals struggle to make ends meet, paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent.

To take action in the housing crisis, our class of 22 partnered with West Tuality Habitat for Humanity to build and repair homes for those in our community who may need a little bit of assistance. In two weeks, 22 students, with construction experience ranging from nonexistent to not-my-first-rodeo, helped get two homes on their feet.

Read our story on Pacific students' work with Habitat for Humanity in Forest Grove, published online Jan. 22, 2019.

Two weeks, two homes, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., we worked side-by-side with a volunteer crew made of community members who have been building for Habitat for years. We grew close, we learned, we laughed, and more importantly, we made a difference. Granted, our contribution to affordable housing is rather small in the grand scheme of things, but in a community with so many residents struggling to catch a break, it makes all the difference. For those individuals we helped, our labor not only built or restored a house, but it brought them home to Forest Grove.

What I found in this experience with the Forest Grove community and Habitat for Humanity is that this town has magic. Forest Grove provides shelters for the homeless seven days a week, empowers women to build their own businesses, and shows families how to agriculturally sustain themselves.

A community this willing to uplift one another should do more to help its community members find homes in Forest Grove. With more volunteers, Habitat can go from building one and a half homes in a year to maybe two or more. If the community stands together and donates or volunteers every so often with Habitat, in time, 544 people might not be homeless in Washington County.

To get in contact with West Tuality Habitat for Humanity, visit westtualityhabitat.org or call 503-359-8459. Build days are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Larissa Reynoso is a student at Pacific University pursuing a degree in marketing and Spanish.


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