New Homes for 25 Hurricane Families

A contribution from Saudi Arabia is funding new houses for 25 families left homeless after Hurricane Katrina. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, Houston Habitat for Humanity surprised the families with a special announcement about the gift.

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"I'm happy and proud to announce to you this morning, at this point in time, at 12:20 in the year of our Lord on this date, that you have been chosen in fact to be Habitat homeowners. (cheers and applause)"

Houston Habitat President Larry Payne made the announcement to the 25 families. The recipients all thought they were at a meeting to hear about the next step in the application process. Many of them broke into tears and shouts of joy. When Lola Bryant heard the news, she exclaimed she can't think of any place she'd rather build her new home than in Houston.

"I am so excited because they did not tell us we were approved. They just told us this was another step, we'd just be meeting with the board members and it would be another time for them to make a decision."

Bryant and the others will be able to purchase the homes at cost with no-interest loans. The cost of building the homes is covered by a donation from the people of Saudi Arabia. Deya Elyas is the director of public affairs for Aramco Services, a Saudi-based company that facilitated the donation.

"It's unfortunate that sometimes it takes a catastrophe to get people to default back to their old settings, and that is we are all brothers and sisters. Regardless of the color, regardless of the race, regardless of any political problems there is, when there -- when there's hurt and pain people always default back and try to help their brothers and sisters."

Each family that received the housing had to be approved through an application process. Nelva Adams-Johnson is the caretaker for her mother who has Alzheimer's. She says she can't wait to go home and tell her family about what happened.

"I have come to love Houston, I really have. My attitude has been from the beginning that God has brought me here. I'm 62 years old, my mother is 90 and my husband is 69 and I feel like God has brought us here, he's going to show us where to go from here and I think he just did."

Counting this group of 25, Houston Habitat has gifted more than 100 storm-survivor families with new homes. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

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