Habitat For Humanity honor Chicago-area veterans with local build event

Chicago's Very Own

CHICAGO — For 25 years, Habitat for Humanity has helped place people in affordable housing by building and rehabbing around the world.

This November, in an effort to honor Chicago-area veterans, the non-profit held their first local Veterans Build event, working to repair and rehab homes for those who served our country.

For the first time, US Army Reserve veteran Marta, whose last name WGN is keeping private, her dream could become reality.

“Houses are so expensive, just having a mortgage alone, it feels like it’s never going to happen,” Marta said.

Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity Veterans Build program doesn’t just build houses, it builds dreams. Now, Marta and her husband Juan could be living in a West Suburban home by next summer.

This past Veterans Day, Marta’s home build was just one of six veteran build events taking place across the area, with teams of veterans volunteering their time and skills to support their fellow comrades.

“It’s a group of veterans coming out, working together to help build a home for a fellow veteran or a deserving family,” Kevin Barszcz said.

Barszcz is with the build program. Often those who serve in the military don’t qualify for the traditional VA loan when transitioning out of military life.

“That middle, that grey area, that’s where Habitat comes in and helps with an affordable mortgage,” Barszcz said.

Since 2013, the Veterans Build program has helped more than 4,000 veterans with home repairs or affordable housing.

Akbar Arsiwala is a Navy veteran and volunteer on the project. He said veterans can struggle with a loss of identity after service and it’s important to be there for one another.

“I think about everyone that I’ve served with and I think like, it’s a family one that I was lucky enough to be a part of for a few years and it transcends when you take the uniform off, having that ability to give back to another veteran, it feels like I’m in uniform again,” Arsiwala said.

The program has been successful, but the would-be homeowners need a bit of patience.

“It does take about a year and a half for when we first meet the family to becoming a homeowner, because of sweat equity,” Barszcz said.

For Marta, she’s grateful to have a roof over her head that’s her own.

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