Portfolio Partner Profile
Self Help Enterprises
Formed in 1965, Self-Help Enterprises (SHE) is a nationally recognized community development organization whose mission is to work together with low-income families to build and sustain healthy homes and communities in the San Joaquin Valley of California. SHE’s efforts today encompass a range of endeavors to build better homes and communities for farmworkers and hard-working families. As of 2022, SHE has assisted over 6,400 homeowners build their homes. SHE has also repaired over 6,800 homes and provided over 16,200 individuals and families with homeownership education and counseling. Under the sustaining neighborhoods initiatives, SHE has assisted over 2,200 homeowners with buying a home on the open market, constructed over 2,200 multi-family affordable rental housing units, and provided over 33,500 families with safe drinking water and sanitary sewer infrastructure. In total, SHE has impacted the lives of over 65,000 individuals.
Featured Impact Story
Welcome Home Celebration in Orosi
On June 8th, Self-Help Enterprises proudly celebrated alongside nine families who participated SHE’s Mutual Self-Help Housing (MSHH) program and completed the building of their own homes in Orosi, CA. The California State Director for USDA Rural Development, Maria Gallegos Herrera, presented the families with their keys and awarded them a certificate to recognize their significant achievement as homeowners. Amidst California’s housing crisis, Self-Help housing presents families with one of the most crucial wealth-building tools: homeownership. Through SHE’s Mutual Self-Help Housing (MSHH) program, families are grouped together and agree to help each other build their houses with skilled onsite supervision and guidance of SHE construction staff. The homes are built under the mutual self-help method of construction where each family is required to contribute labor hours, or “sweat equity,” which are used as the down payment on their new home, reducing costs for a new home they could otherwise not afford.
One of the participants, Maria Gomez, shared what becoming a homeowner means to her and her family. Maria has always dreamt of owning a home for her family. When her son was first diagnosed with autism six years ago, Maria worried if she could ever make that dream a reality. Her parents had previously built their own home through the MSHH program with SHE. Maria saw first-hand how much dedication went into building her parents’ home and that it was well worth it for them to become homeowners. “When I first applied, I prayed that I would have the opportunity to make this dream come true for my family,” said Gomez. “In these past 14 months of construction, I have learned the true value of all of our hard work. This home will always be one of my greatest accomplishments.”
A New Home for Angelina
Evangelina Duran is finally home! The City of Sanger Housing Rehab Program recently completely reconstructed her home as it was in need of critical health and safety repairs. Since their dad passed away two years ago from COVID, Norma Falcon, and her siblings have cared for their 87-year-old mom, Evangelina Duran, as best they could. Unfortunately, the safety of their mom's house was a consistent worry that they could not repair on their own. "Her home was totally destroyed," said Norma. "The foundation was off, and nothing was working right."
The deterioration of the home's foundation and lack of appropriate wheelchair access made it extremely difficult for Evangelina to move around her house. The Housing Rehab program helped reconstruct the home with all the necessary accessibility features so that Evangelina could finally enjoy her living space. The doors and hallways are now wider. Her bathroom is also much safer, with a custom shower space for her wheelchair. "My mom always wanted a new kitchen, but never dreamed she would get a whole new home," said Norma. "Now that she's back home, she's much happier and eating better. She's even using her walker more often. This house got her back to her old self!"
Kevin Finally Has a Safe Place to Call Home
Kevin Duvall moved into his new Sequoia Commons apartment in Goshen, CA in February of 2020. Later in life, Kevin found himself caring for his dying mother who eventually passed, leaving him alone and without a home. “My mother lived in that home for 34 years, but because we had a reverse mortgage, once she passed, the bank took the home. I walked away with a backpack, two photo albums and my mom’s ashes.” Kevin remained homeless for ten years. He did his best finding odd jobs, but none of them were enough to secure an apartment. Once he finally had enough for an apartment, he was hit with “you don’t have enough renter’s credit.” It was never enough. He worked in the fields to make ends meet but did not have a place to come home to. In an unfortunate turn of events, one day while riding his bike to the grocery store, two intoxicated men hit him over the head with a hammer and took his bike. He was left on the side of the road having a seizure from the trauma until the police and ambulance showed up. Kevin was taken to the hospital where he stayed for three weeks. It was there that doctors informed him that he had a tumor on the back of his head. “If I hadn’t been hit over the head, I wouldn’t have found out about my tumor,” said Kevin. He’s been disabled since and has been in and out of medical facilities taking care of his health issues.
Kevin reached out to the Kings and Tulare Homeless Alliance, a coalition that coordinates and leverages policy and resources that empower community partners to address homelessness in Kings and Tulare Counties. Once connected, Kevin learned about the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP), the Mainstream Voucher Program and CSET’s Continuum of Care program, which helps develop and provide housing and related supportive services for people moving from homelessness to independent and supportive living. With the help of the Homeless Alliance and partners like CSET, Kevin had the opportunity to apply to Sequoia Commons, Self-Help Enterprises’ new affordable rental community located in Goshen. “Kevin is a very nice guy. He tried to connect with as many resources as possible," said Leticia Hinojosa, the Coordinated Entry Manager at the Kings and Tulare Homeless Alliance. “Even during some really stressful and frustrating times, he never gave up. His end goal was housing and happy that he finally got housed.” Leticia mentioned that “it’s a really big challenge” to get people experiencing homelessness off the streets. Even when they have vouchers, there are so many layers of requirements that often limit options.
Monthly net rents at Sequoia Commons range from $331 to $766 and are determined based on unit size and resident incomes. These below-market monthly rents mean that Self-Help Enterprises is providing an affordable housing opportunity to local residents like Kevin.
“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone and when you do get it back in this magnitude of greatness, where everything is so beautiful and clean,” smiled Kevin. “It’s a life-changer. I have my own place now. I have a place to cook my food, take a shower to get ready for my doctors’ appointments.” Kevin says it’s the little things that really matter like “being able to turn a doorknob or shut the door for some privacy when showering.”
The Castellanos Family Enjoys Their Newly Reconstructed Home
This summer, Argelia Castellanos was happy to walk through her recently reconstructed home without having to flinch at the sight of pests or dwell on the cracks on her ceiling. In May, Argelia and her husband, Gerardo, received the keys to their new home, which was completely reconstructed via the City of Woodlake’s Housing Rehabilitation Program.
The Castellanos family moved back to Woodlake from Stockton 26 years ago, pursuing a calmer and safer environment to raise their children. The couple worked through various strenuous jobs, many times over 12 hours shifts. Argelia worked in different factories and Gerardo harvested watermelons while enduring the field’s harsh environment. Although these were grueling jobs, they helped put food on the table and ensured their family would have a roof over their heads. This roof, however, was one of many troubling signs of their home’s deterioration. There were various cracks in the roof, pest damage, faulty windows, and structural faults throughout their home.
Cost estimates for home repairs were unfeasible and the state of their home became increasingly hazardous as the years of harsh working conditions began to take a toll on Argelia and Gerardo’s health. Argelia had heard about the various projects SHE had completed in the Woodlake area and sought help for home repairs. Because the home’s deterioration was so extensive, a full reconstruction was required. Improvements included energy-efficient solar panels, heating/cooling, and reconstruction of their yard. Tony Gonzalez, of Speedy Gonzalez Construction, donated the synthetic turf used for the new yard, transforming it into a drought-conscious green space for the family to enjoy. More importantly, their home is now both safe and functional. As Argelia reflects on their journey, she also wants to encourage other families who are struggling to get informed about available programs like the kind SHE offers.
Through partnerships with cities and counties in the San Joaquin Valley, Self-Help Enterprises’ Rehabilitation Program works with local community leaders to identify housing needs, secure funding, and successfully implement housing repairs for residents.
The Grand Opening of Sugar Pine Village in Madera
On December 3rd, SHE gathered with partners and local dignitaries to celebrate the grand opening of Sugar Pine Village, an affordable rental community in Madera that connects health and housing through integrated permanent supportive housing.
The project features 20 one-, 16 two-, and 16 three-bedroom apartments that range from 664 square feet to 1,127 square feet. Rents are set according to income range. The project also has 16 units reserved for individuals struggling with housing insecurity and homelessness. Units at Sugar Pine Village include fully equipped kitchens with energy-efficient appliances and laundry hook-ups. The project has a 2,605 square foot community building that houses a computer lab with free Wi-Fi, kitchen, rental office, and meeting rooms, as well as a variety of outdoor amenities. A solar PV system will offset the power used on the property and reduce utility bills for the residents.
The partnership with the Madera County Behavioral Health Department will allow residents access to wrap-around supportive services that include on-site management and counselors to assist residents with health, wellness, and other socio-economic needs. In addition, SHE’s Resident Services Program will offer classes and services that include group exercise, nutrition and health education, financial and computer literacy, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and more. Together, these services and resources will encourage residents to remain active and engaged in the community.
“We are proud to work together with our many funding partners, and with Madera County Behavioral Health, to bring this sustainable development which prioritizes the need for integrated permanent supportive housing,” said Tom Collishaw, President and CEO of SHE. “Sugar Pine Village is one answer to the housing crisis which brings permanent affordable housing opportunities to Madera residents in need.”
“We had been homeless for almost 2 years,” said Anahisa Moreno, new incoming resident of Sugar Pine Village.” This apartment has honestly been a blessing and dream come true. If it wasn’t for this place, my girls and I would still be struggling for a place to call home.”
A New Home Over Her Head
China has lived in her Fresno, CA home for over 20 years; long enough to build a beautiful home where her children and grandchildren are able to spend quality time together. A neighborhood she describes as “nice and quaint” is where she hopes to continue living for many more years. “It’s a good neighborhood, we all know one another,” says China. “And I love working in my backyard and in my garden.”
With the passage of time, however, her home has gone through some wear and tear, particularly on her roof. She had plans to get it fixed but when COVID-19 hit, she was one of the many individuals who lost their jobs. “It was very hard to hear that I was being let go,” said China. “I had been working in the medical administration field for over 30 years and suddenly it was all gone. But in a way, it was a blessing in disguise.”
China learned of Self-Help Enterprises’ Rehabilitation Program through her mortgage lender friend. She decided to reach out in early 2020 and started the process to replace her roof. The process started in June of 2020, and her new roof was completed in February of 2021. “I am so grateful for SHE’s help. I recently looked into an unofficial appraisal, and I saw that my home value already went up. I couldn’t ask for more,” smiled China.
A New Home In Patterson, CA
Candie Gallardo, a passionate 27-year-old single mother, strolled around her nearly completed self-help home with pure admiration. “This is where I plan to put the TV and this is where the couch will go,” Candie points out with assurance. Before embarking on her homeownership journey, Candie had no construction experience but has learned a tremendous amount through this process. “Some things were not as difficult as I thought, like the wiring. If I ever wanted to swap the current light for a chandelier or change the style of light switches, I know I can easily do that in the future.”
Candie is part of the first group cohort in Patterson to participate in Self-Help Enterprises’ (SHE) Mutual Self-Help Housing program. In total, SHE is planning 118 single-family detached homes, with 3- and 4-bedroom options. Patterson is a rural town on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley with a population of about 22,000. In recent years, Patterson has grown as a bedroom community for east Bay Area commuters, leaving many local families behind. “I know many people who can’t afford to even rent in this area. I have a friend who had to move to Modesto and commutes here,” says Candie. The median sales price for a home in Patterson is approximately $382,000, with minimum monthly mortgage payments over $1,800, which means a family needs to earn nearly $73,000 annually to afford a home. Renters need to earn nearly twice the state minimum wage in order to afford the average asking rents in Patterson. Candie first reached out to SHE in 2017 after her father encouraged her to apply for the Mutual Self-Help Housing program. She was put on a waitlist for Patterson for two years before the project began. “I worked with Juanita in the Gateway counseling program, who said I was the ideal candidate. I had little debt and had my finances in order. I was able to take all the homeownership classes online, which made it very convenient.
Working to Help Families Impacted by Drought
The San Joaquin Valley, known for its bountiful lands that produce a large portion of the country’s food supply, is experiencing the drastic effects of a worsening drought and record-breaking temperatures that have left many rural families with dry wells. While many of us take for granted the ability to turn on our tap water without an ounce of worry, the sad reality for families with dry wells is that they are unable to cook, unable to feed their family, unable to bathe and carry on with basic hygiene necessities. Since March 2021, SHE’s Emergency Services drought response team has worked around the clock to address the influx of calls and emails from community members faced with drought devastation.
“It’s absolutely amazing and honestly we never thought there was an organization that would help us when our well went dry,” said Laurel Boylan, a water tank participant in Clovis, CA. “We found this amazing organization through social media, and we were divinely led to water access again.”
“The past five years California has been rocked with devastation due to natural disasters, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tami McVay, SHE’s Assistant Program Director of Partner Services. “Our state funds for disaster response are limited. It is vital to our economy and utterly important that private well owners have their wells inspected to ensure sustainability. For every dollar spent on preparedness, four dollars is saved in response. SHE is taking a proactive approach towards drought resiliency and climate change. Let us help you be prepared.”
Reflecting SHE’s mission to build and sustain healthy homes and communities, the Emergency Services team strives to support community sustainability by educating our most vulnerable populations about how to properly prepare for natural disasters such as drought, fire, flood, and earthquake. The program also helps families receive urgent access to clean water and help with water well replacement and water filtration services as needed. “During the previous severe drought cycle we earned our reputation as first responders, and we are embracing the same role with the help of key partners such as the State Water Resources Control Board,” said Tom Collishaw, CEO of Self-Help Enterprises. “While we feel better prepared this time round, I fear this may become our new normal.”