Habitat Helps Philomath Family

by Chris Singer

Driving up to and seeing Carmon Thomas’ Philomath home for the first time would give you no indications there are any problems with it. In fact, when you enter the home and see its’ warm, cozy environs, you still only see a home perfectly suited to fit most family’s needs.

It’s not until you give the windows and doors a bit of a closer examination when you witness the kind of mold problem which would haunt the sleep of any homeowner.

I had an immediate visceral response upon seeing the mold problem, which happens to be at its worst in the bedrooms of the Thomas children.

Thankfully, this problem will be rectified soon, as the Thomas home is set to be Benton County Habitat for Humanity’s first special repair and siding project during National Women Build Week from May 5-12.

Carmon lives in the home with three of her children, Vanessa (15), Shanna (17), Justus (13), while a fourth, Kiauna (23), lives in Medford. Carmon has owned the home for almost 9 years. While the house was only built in 1992, she has dealt with a laundry list of needs and repairs due to poor construction.

The roof had to be replaced because it was installed improperly. During the repairs, mold was found in the attic as well. The mold along the windows and doors has been a persistent problem for the past five years.

The repair of the Thomas home is a special project through Habitat for Humanity’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, whose mission is to serve more families, as well as acknowledge that the need is not just new houses.

Not only is it the first special repair project taking place in Benton County, but it will also be the first time for a Women Build project as well.

According to Kelsey Hubbard from Benton County HFH, the mission of Women Build is to recruit, educate and nurture women to build and advocate for simple, decent and affordable houses in their communities. Women Build is not about excluding men from the build, but is rather about purposely working to include more opportunities for women.

National Women Build Week challenges projects to meet the goal of having 75 percent of the volunteers on the worksite to be women. Women crews have already built over 1,900 homes. Women Build projects provide an environment in which women can feel comfortable learning skills they might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn.

While National Women Build Week focuses on involving women in community builds, it’s also about supporting and advocating on behalf of women homeowners and their families.

If there was a poster family for Women Build, surely the Thomas’ would be up for consideration.

Carmon is very charismatic and likable and her kids are simply beautiful. After spending an hour with them, I left feeling that the Benton Habitat for Humanity selection committee made an excellent choice.

Carmon is about to graduate from Oregon State University with her Bachelor’s in Human Services. She’s in the process of applying for the Masters in Social Work program through Portland State University’s distance education program.

She credits the five years of work to earn her degree in helping her to become a more confident and stronger person.

After hearing about all of the struggles with her home, I asked her why has she stayed there.

“We moved here from Ashland and about a year after, my husband and I separated. The divorce was long and bumpy, and by then, the kids were established in school. My son has autism and I think Philomath Schools does a nice job with their special needs population. The divorce was tough and I didn’t want to make the kids go through more changes,” says Carmon.

She added, “We probably could have gotten subsidized housing, but we have lots of pets and my son’s dog is basically his therapy dog. It was just easier to stay.”

While there’s a lot of excitement about the upcoming construction, Carmon confessed to  being a little worried as well.

“My fear is they’re going to find black mold. If that happens, they’ll put everything back the way they found it and it’ll be done. That could be a nightmare.”

The project deconstruction will take place at or around April 30th with the Build Kickoff taking place on May 5th culminating in a dedication ceremony on May 12th.