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Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on Hope Court homes in Elkhart

Habitat for Humanity Elkhart County
Marek Mazurek, WVPE
Representatives from Elkhart County Habitat from Humanity and the city of Elkhart stand with Laci Reige, center, and her two children as they break ground on her new home on Wednesday May 24, 2023 in Elkhart.

Miesha Johnson is 23 and works as a home health aide in Elkhart County. But as a single mother to a 1-year-old son and with another daughter on the way, Johnson has been struggling financially and is sharing an apartment with her brother.

Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, Johnson will soon have something no one else in her family has: her own home.

“I’m the first one in my family to have a home. It’s definitely a blessing,” Johnson said. “To be able to look forward to helping others if they need housing or anything like that, I can provide that now.”

Johnson is one of seven families joined in a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday and all seven families are expected to have have new homes by the end of the year. The project, dubbed Hope Court, is going in off Stiver Avenue on the south side of the city and is the largest groundbreaking in Elkhart County for the nonprofit.

Elkhart County Habitat for Humanity CEO Greg Conrad said the Hope Court name comes from the organization’s mission of turning the hope of home ownership into a reality for families in need.

“For a lot of our families, in fact for all of our families, owning a home is something they never thought was possible, but habitat makes it possible,” said Conrad. “When they get to their home it is like the hope is realized, the dream is fulfilled.”

Conrad said the goal is to complete construction by the end of the year, though getting certain supplies, like transformers, has been challenging.

Also challenging has been the rising cost of building materials, which have gone up 30 % in recent years, according to Conrad.

“Not all, but generally speaking, we’ve seen tremendous increases. What does that mean? That means we have to have more community support. It means we have to do everything we can to guard the pennies and be good stewards of what the community does entrust to us.”

But the logistical hurdles didn’t matter on Wednesday as representatives from Habitat and the city of Elkhart officially broke ground at each of the seven new sites along the cul-de-sac.

After the official groundbreaking, 25-year-old Laci Riege stood in the space where her house will go. As she watched her two children chase each other around the area, Riege said she hopes owning a home will give them a stable life.

“I guess it means a lot to me,” Riege said. “My mom died when I was only 20. That kind of left me with nothing. I’m giving my kids the life that they deserve.”

With construction started on the Hope Court homes, Habitat is currently working on 10 houses in Elkhart. Habitat for Humanity homeowners pay an affordable mortgage and help build their houses alongside volunteers.

Elkhart’s director of development Mike Huber and state Sen. Linda Rogers also attended Wednesday’s groundbreaking.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.