Jose Rodriguez: Building toward a better future

There's no doubting Jose Rodriguez's determination. He's been working diligently at the Portland ReStore since January, every night, Monday through Friday, and then at a Habitat build site most Saturdays in an effort to complete his required sweat equity hours. Jose and his wife Lidia are future Habitat homeowners. Their story begins in Mexico.

Jose says that since he was seven years old he has wanted to move to the United States. Life can be a difficult struggle for many in Portland, but it's far more difficult in Mexico where items often cost the same as those north of the border, but wages are nowhere near comparable.

"Well, in Mexico you have to work a whole week ...and hard work for $50," Jose said. "We can get nothing. Nothing."

After completing sixth grade, Jose received his education certificate and decided he'd rather go to work than continue in school. He labored with his father for awhile, and later grew corn and beans for a living before heading to the U.S. as a teen. Portland has been his home for nearly 40 years. 

Lidia grew up not far from Jose's neighborhood in Mexico. The two dated when she was 14, he 16.  They remet and married nearly 18 years ago. Together Jose and Lidia are raising their three children: Francisco, Alejandro and Joselin. Francisco plays on the school football team and likes math. He has dreams of becoming : a graphic designer, a soldier, a police officer. He's only 15, he has  time to add other occupations to that list. Fourteen-year-old Alejandro likes dance and enjoys basketball. He's thinking of being a karate instructor when he grows up. Joselin is the youngest. At 10 she's into crafts and biking. One day she may become a teacher. 

Jose does seasonal landscaping for the City of Portland. He also offers landscaping service to a few residential customers in the area. Right now, this family of five occupies a crowded two-bedroom apartment. Jose explained that not long ago Alejandro, who has Down Syndrome, began getting sick and was having difficulty breathing. Alejandro's school started making inquiries, and following an official inspection, it was determined mold in the apartment was the cause.

"We told and told the manager, but she never came," said Jose. 

Eventually, the city made the owner clean up the mold. Then the manager upped the rent...over 25 percent. Jose and Lidia were in a panic.

Through the Department of Human Services the Rodriguez family discovered Habitat's Homeownership Program. They attended Habitat's homeownership application meetings where they learned that if accepted into the program, their Habitat housing payments will be kept at 30 percent of their household gross monthly income at the time of the sale. They asked questions and filled in the application.  They went through a home visit and interview. One day last fall...

"I was sleeping in the morning and I see my wife is happy," Jose laughs. "She is screaming and all that stuff. I said, 'What's wrong?' And I go out and check, and we got the house!"

Very soon the Rodriguez family will complete their sweat equity hours-- over 129  of those worked at The ReStore. 

"We'll be glad when Jose completes his sweat equity, but people will be very sorry to see him go!" said Portland ReStore Assistant Manager Kate Ayres. "In a very short time he's become a beloved member of the crew. People really like him. He's so helpful to volunteers, staff and customers alike."

Jose likes The ReStore, too. He's starting to purchase a few things, things he will need as a homeowner: tools, paint, an iron.

This fall, Jose and Lidia will be handed the keys to a newly remodeled 4-bedroom Habitat home in North Portland. They're ready. They've been taking the homebuyer classes. They've been working hard. They've been dreaming of a more secure life. Partnering with Habitat, they know they're building a better future.

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