POCATELLO — Karlia Lopez was in her living room when she first received the call and heard the news.
“I was honestly shocked, I don’t think I reacted much,” Lopez said. “My daughter was with me when they announced it and was excited, and when I woke the next morning it hit me. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is great. This is going to give me so many opportunities’ and I was thinking everything that was going to mean for my family.”
Months prior, Lopez, a single mother of four children ages 3 to 14, had applied for Gateway Habitat for Humanity’s upcoming housing project after encouragement from a friend.
“She kept saying, ‘Karlia, you need to apply, you’re the perfect candidate for it,” Lopez explained.
But as the months rolled by and she heard no news from the nonprofit organization that chooses one family to be involved with building their next home with an affordable mortgage, Lopez put the thought by the wayside as she believed someone else had been selected.
Then the phone call came, she geared herself for the rejection, and instead got to mark Oct. 4 as the date for the groundbreaking of her new home.
“We moved (to Chubbuck) four years ago to try and make a better life for ourselves and things haven’t gone entirely as planned,” Lopez said, who moved her family from Salt Lake City. “Yet we’re still trying and hopeful and I think that’s why Habitat (for Humanity) is helping us get us where we want to be.”
Since the late 1990s Gateway Habitat for Humanity has helped put 12 families into houses that are designed to meet their needs, and selected the Lopez family based on their need, willingness to partner and ability to repay the housing loan, explained administrative coordinator Katie Lish.
“We want to construct modest and adequate housing because we believe that everyone deserves a decent place to live. And in doing that we do it one family at a time,” said Lish.
Lopez will put in a $500 down payment and 500 hours of sweat equity in exchange for a 30-year, no-interest loan on a house that will be built by donated labor, volunteers and her own family. JHS Architects completed the house plans, and in October the construction will begin.
Located at 281 Randolph Ave., the plot will be transformed into a house with a living room, dining room, kitchen, two bathrooms, four bedrooms, and a small yard. Lopez currently lives in a house she’s renting from a friend and explained that the addition of more bedrooms and bathrooms is very welcome.
“We are currently in a three-bedroom house, and my three boys are sharing a room,” she said. “My 3-year-old also still has much of his stuff in my bedroom. Just the fact that I’ll have my own space finally, and my boys will have their own space, we’re just excited. And if we want a pet, we can have that, too.”
Lopez explained that already she’s seen opportunities open up since she received that phone call about her family being chosen for Gateway’s next project.
“One of my co-workers, her parents own a house and long story short … she said (we) can move into this house until (ours) is ready, so we’re renting it now,” she said. “So even though (it) isn’t built yet, it’s already opened up the opportunity for my kids to have more freedom.”
She also has family members who’ve made plans to come up from Utah and co-workers who’ve volunteered to help her chip away at the 500 hours of labor she’s required to complete.
“Anybody who puts in those hours, it goes towards that equity, so I’m really grateful because 500 hours is a lot,” she said. “I’m very excited to be working on my house and I want to do my best to take care of it.”
She considers having a house large enough to accommodate her family’s size and an affordable mortgage as a valuable gift that allows her to provide opportunities for her children such as educational or extracurricular activities.
“One of the things that is important to me is providing a safe place for my kids and something I can call my own, being a single mom,” she said. “I got divorced about two and a half years ago and I just wanted to get ahead in life and not be dependent on the system. … Every time you turn around now rent is more expensive, things get more expensive, and it gets depressing, thinking you’re never going to be able to get ahead. I want to give them those opportunities and make sure they’re not lacking in life and I can help them grow into responsible human beings and develop in the way that they need to as children.”