Monday, May 17, 2004

Union, Habitat link up

Cincinnati chosen as site for national celebration

By Liz Oakes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

AVONDALE - Michelle Ragland spent more than 12 years renting subsidized apartments in Over-the-Rhine, where she saw people getting shot and drug deals in broad daylight, and endured rodents in her building.

Neighborhood kids "vandalized my car several times, broke out the windows just to have something to do," said Ragland, 32.

She sent her three daughters, 13, 8 and 6, to St. Francis Seraph School, paying tuition and monthly rent of $467 plus utilities on a $7-an-hour salary.

But by the end of the summer, Ragland and her children will move into a new three-bedroom home on Hale Street in Avondale, thanks to several hundred volunteers from Greater Cincinnati trade unions and Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit housing group.

And today, local and national labor and housing representatives plan to help Ragland and another family get a step closer to home ownership at a ceremony and house "wall-raising" on Hale Street.

Cincinnati was chosen as the site to kick off this week's national celebration of a recent partnership between Habitat for Humanity International and the AFL-CIO.

The reason, said Susan Schiller, executive director of Cincinnati Habitat, is Local 265 of the Laborers International Union's donation of close to a third of an acre, worth about $10,000, where Ragland's and a second home are being built.

By next year, the site - once home to a union hall - will hold a total of four houses, Schiller said.

Habitat requires prospective owners to put in 500 hours of "sweat equity" on the houses before purchasing them.

Ragland's new home will cost about $60,000, with a monthly mortgage of about $350 - less than what she is paying for rent.

"We are just so blessed to have this house," Ragland said Sunday.

Habitat for Humanity is financing her 20-year, zero-interest loan.

Ragland, who recently got a raise at her job as a human resources clerk at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, is excited about her two-story house.

She says she knows crime is everywhere, but in her new neighborhood, "my children don't have to see drug deals right in front of their house; the prostitutes right there on the corner."

If you go

What: Ceremony, "wall-raising" and cookout open to public

When: 11:45 a.m. today

Where: 533 and 535 Hale St., Avondale

Information: (513) 621-4147



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