By Dylan Deprey
The Hassan family had waited 24 years to finally call a house their home.
Before Isha and Osman Hassan and their two sons and eight daughters were renting a three-bedroom and one-bathroom house in Milwaukee, they lived in Kentucky for four years. Before that, they lived in a refugee camp in Dabaab, Kenya for ten years after being forced out of Somalia due to ongoing conflict.
After a decade of stuffing their family into a small rental property, the Osman’s finally closed on their newly renovated Washington Park home on Aug. 31st 2017, as the first Re-Invest in City Homes (RICH) program.
Ald. Stamper II sponsored the RICH program as his first piece of legislation four years ago, and he was just as excited to see the transformation of the former foreclosed home.
“It feels great to see everybody that came out today to celebrate with a great family,” said Ald. Russell Stamper II.
The RICH Program works as a partnership between the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. The program provides low-income loans to allow Habitat for Humanity to purchase city-owned foreclosed homes, complete rehabilitation work and then sell them to qualified homebuyers.
The selection process for program participants includes, those who must not have owned property in Milwaukee within the last two years, have an uninterrupted employment for at least a year, and a favorable rent, utility, and debt repayment history.
“We say this a lot and we will keep saying it, but without the help from our volunteers it would be near impossible to do what we’ve accomplished today,” said Eric Gremonprez, Critical Home Repair Manager Habitat for Humanity.
Gremonprez said the old green house that once sat on N. 36th Street was transformed after the siding completely stripped, and re-framed the house into a five bedroom. He added that this house was distinctive because it allowed volunteers to do framing.
“Doing the framing was a unique experience because we’ve never attempted to do that with volunteers before, so it was a really cool experience,” Gremonprez said.
Brian Sonderman, Executive Director Milwaukee Habitat, thanked financial sponsors Wells Fargo, We Energies Foundation, CDBG Milwaukee and The City of Milwaukee.
“We could not do this without our volunteers, and we certainly do this for the families but we couldn’t pay for this without our sponsors,” Sonderman said.
After a ceremonial ribbon cutting, the Hassan’s welcomed neighbors and news crews to check out their brand-new home. Whether it was the spacious kitchen with marble countertops or fresh wood flooring laid down, the Hassan’s were all smiles during the entire event.
“I didn’t expect lot of people to show up today and I’m very glad to let people come in through my home, and now I say, ‘Thank you and God bless you,’” Hassan said.