Guerras, Hornbuckles able to remain in the Keys
Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Willie Guerra had all but put in his notice and prepared to move his family to Cape Coral.
He and his wife, Juneisy, a nurse with Hospice and the Visiting Nurses Association, just welcomed a third son, and their modest trailer with one and a half bedrooms was anything but suitable living conditions for their family.
“It’s hard, because as a as a cop and a nurse, we feel like we should be able to afford something down here,” Guerra noted.
After making half a dozen offers on modest homes only to be shut out by buyers with cash in hand, Guerra admitted he’d reached the end of his rope. Though he could easily work in law enforcement on the mainland for significantly greater pay, the Guerras have made their home in Marathon for the past 11 years; he’d much prefer to raise his family, including newborn, Andy, in a close-knit community where the crimes rates are significantly lower.
That was precisely the reason why he and Juneisy applied for a home through Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys, and late last month, they received word that they’d be able to remain in the town they’ve come to know as home.
“A lot of people don’t want to put in for it,” Guerra elaborated, “but it’s to help keep people like us from moving away because we can’t afford to live here.”
Executive Director Christine Todd Young emphasized that becoming a Habitat family is a privilege that’s earned and not simply a gift of a free and clear home.
“Once a family is chosen, they are then prospective homeowners because they must complete 100 sweat equity hours and are responsible for the mortgage,” Young said. “They pay taxes and insurance just like every other homeowner. However, it’s a 0% interest mortgage, which makes it truly affordable housing by keeping the payments low.”
For Tim Wonderlin, who’s been involved with Habitat for Humanity for the past four years and currently chairs the Family Selection Committee said this year is a particularly special one in that two families will receive the keys to their new home in the coming months.
“We’re happy to be able to put another family that’s been living in conditions that are not comfortable for their situation in their own home,” Wonderlin said, “Any family we can help is good, but to be able to help two families in one year is great.”
Shelley Hornbuckle, along with her daughter Kali and Kali’s grandfather, Ron Hornbuckle, will be the proud recipients of the next Habitech Home built in partnership with students at Marathon High School.
Hornbuckle, like the first Habitech Home owner, Sarah Adams, is a graduate of MHS; it was actually through Adams that Hornbuckle learned about the Habitat application process.
“Mrs. Adams was Kali’s third grade teacher, and she passed out fliers to her students,” Hornbuckle remembered. “My dad went with me to the affordable homeownership workshop, and as soon as I brought the paperwork home and began filling it out, I just started calling it my home…tried to remain positive.”
The medical surgical nurse at Lower Keys Medical Center works four 12-hour shifts per week in between which she also works for the Area Health Education Coalition (AHEC) assisting with school readiness screenings. Her father, a retired veteran who currently resides in Miami, regularly takes the five-hour bus ride down from Miami to care for Kali when mom’s working overnight.
Hornbuckle and her daughter currently reside in the Middle Keys housing project, and she counts their selection as prospective new homeowners through Habitat among a growing list of blessings.
“If I’d not been able to find a place in the projects, I wouldn’t still be here in Marathon because I couldn’t afford it,” Hornbuckle admitted.
Even after a long night at work, she’s still eager to help organize closets at the Elks Lodge and pass out fliers to residents and visitors throughout the Lower Keys and Key West to promote the upcoming D’Asign Source Gala on Dec. 3 – Middle Keys Habitat’s primary annual fundraiser – because each sweat equity hour she logs help get her one step closer to owning her own home.
Since 1999, D’Asign Source has hosted an annual gala to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys. Habitat’s mission is to build decent, affordable homes for those who lack adequate shelter, and home is a passion for brothers Tony, Franco and Amedeo D’Ascanio. Known for great entertainment – past guests have included Carl Hiassen, Dave Berry, Coach Don Shula, Max Mayfield and Academy Award winning producer John Landau – as well as great food, the not-to-miss social event of the Keys calendar is a festive kick off to the holiday season.
For more information, call (305) 743-9828 or visit www.habitatmiddlekeys.org.