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Newcomers to Canada finally get wheelchair accessible home

Habitat for Humanity Sault Ste. Marie at groundbreaking ceremony for Barakat family
20220810-Habitat for Humanity home-supplied photo-01
The Barakat family, Habitat for Humanity staff, Sal-Dan Developments President Sam Biasucci and elected officials celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for the family’s soon to be built home on Blake Avenue, August 10, 2022.

The Barakat family - Ahmad, wife Manal and their three young sons Zen, Zayd, and Amir - will finally be able to reside in Sault Ste. Marie in a new home that meets their needs.

Habitat for Humanity Sault Ste. Marie & Area held a  groundbreaking ceremony for a new wheelchair accessible four-bedroom bungalow to be built for the family at 23 Blake Avenue on Wednesday.

“It went overwhelmingly well,” said Katie Blunt, HFHSSMA executive director speaking to SooToday after the ceremony that was attended by Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano, Sault MP Terry Sheehan and Jennifer Bellerose for Sault MPP Ross Romano.

“The family was very excited. It was definitely a momentous occasion for them. They have been living in Canada for six years and this is the opportunity for a lifetime for them. Home ownership is everyone’s dream,” Blunt said.

Helped by the United Nations, the Barakat family moved to Canada from Lebanon in 2016, having fled Syria as refugees of the civil war a few years prior. 

The family had searched for a wheelchair accessible home for Ahmad for some time.

The home on Blake Avenue will be the 15th build for Habitat in the Sault since the organization established a local presence in 2002. 

Sal-Dan Developments will construct the home.

Through the National Housing Strategy (NHS), the Government of Canada invested $65,000 into the Blake Street home, bringing Habitat for Humanity one step closer to creating 414 new affordable homes across Canada. This investment is part of a total federal financial commitment of $32.4 million over three years (2019-2021) to Habitat for Humanity Canada and its affiliate organizations.

Support for the project has come from Sal-Dan, Interfor, Soo Mill Buildall, DNM Plumbing & Heating, Guzzo Electrical Contracting, Tulloch Engineering, Rapid City Repair, Avery Construction, Sagen, FICMAR Builders Inc., DSSMSSAB, Reliance Home Comfort, Carlo Gervasi Personal Real Estate Corp., Cutting Edge Designs, Area Real Estate Appraisals, Vaultra Storage, Evolugen, Relevant Life Financial Group, Final Touch Property Maintenance, and Gary Trembinski.

“We’re currently working with the City on our building permit, so as soon as we have the permit we’ll be starting construction within the next week or two. Construction of the home, permitting that materials are not delayed in getting here, the hope is to have it done by the end of the year. Sal-Dan and our material vendors in town such as Soo Mill Buildall take very good care of us,” Blunt said.

“One of the challenges that we find in particular is that the house or lot size is not appropriate for a family’s situation. We’re seeing a greater number of multi-generational families applying and a greater number of families requiring four-plus bedrooms. Sometimes the lots are smaller and we’re not able to accommodate those larger builds,” Blunt said.

“Another challenge is that some folks don’t earn sufficient income to pay for the mortgage,” Blunt added.

The Barakats had applied for a Habitat home before without meeting success.

Ahmad’s spinal cord injury made finding employment and getting a traditional mortgage for a more accessible home difficult.

He now works for Uride.

Lots for homes are donated to Habitat by entities such as the City of Sault Ste. Marie and private citizens. The Blake Avenue lot was donated by the District Of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board.       

“I look forward to bringing more partners on board,” Blunt said.

Habitat families are required to complete 500 hours of voluntary service in the community in return for help given by Habitat and contractors, those hours often at Habitat for Humanity Sault Ste. Marie & Area’s ReStore on White Oak Drive.

“If someone visits the ReStore they’re very likely going to see this family in there volunteering their time,” Blunt said.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to work with families on their path to home ownership. It makes my heart very happy. Everyone deserves a safe, decent and affordable home.”

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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