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Habitat for Humanity welcomes 5 families to new Baltimore homes

Habitat for Humanity welcomes 5 families to new Baltimore homes
Tiara Walkins, 27, cuts a ribbon on her new home Saturday. The house on St. Clair Crossing in Northeast Baltimore is one of five recently completed homes by Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake. (Jessica Anderson)

Nydetra Rogers scanned outside her new home Saturday morning. Kids were running around, and across the street she could see Archbishop Curley High School lacrosse players scrimmaging during a practice.

"Hopefully it's a better environment from where we are coming from," said Rogers, 26.

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Her mom recently purchased the orange three-bedroom home with a finished basement and front porch overlooking the Catholic school's sprawling athletic fields. It's one of five recently completed rowhouses built by Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake in the Orchard Ridge neighborhood.

Rogers' family is relocating to the development from the Perkins Homes public housing complex about 3 miles south. Rogers, who is studying to be a nursing assistant, said she felt that area was unsafe, and her family's unit was much smaller.

Now, she has a sunny back bedroom and has already figured out where she will put her bed and her TV.

The new development of brightly colored houses pop along Sinclair Lane and Erdman Avenue. It was once home to Freedom Village and Claremont public housing high rises, which were demolished in 2004.

In 2008, new construction of two- and three-story townhouse duplexes began, and four years later the city asked Habitat for Humanity to complete construction of 30 homes.

The last five of those units were completed for Rogers and her new neighbors in time for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday.

Mike Posko, CEO of Habitat's Chesapeake chapter, said the organization has completed 129 houses in Baltimore with the help of more than 10,000 volunteers and has raised $2 million from the Habitat's ReStore locations — the nonprofit's home improvement and donation centers.

In order to qualify for the Orchard Ridge homes, prospective owners had to help with construction, contributing at least 200 hours, and also had to take 50 hours of financial and home ownership education classes. The cost of the homes is not more than 30 percent of the homeowner's income.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the new development will "lead to more stability and growth in the area."

The mayor said the community is an example of a transformation that she would like to see for the rest of Baltimore. Kenneth C. Holt, secretary of the state's Department of Housing and Community Development, called the new neighborhood, "about the best location to raise your families."

Shantia Johnson, 31, who has lived in a Habitat home since May on the next block, welcomed her new neighbors.

"I love it, so quiet," she told the crowd of her community.

She said likes that she can let her two sons play outside and not worry about their safety. At her last apartment in West Baltimore, she was afraid to let them go outside alone.

"It's a very big difference," she said.

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At the end of Saturday's ceremony, the five new homeowners were each given a pair of oversized scissors to cut through a white ribbon at the front door before they walked into the freshly painted homes.

Tiara Watkins, 27, an information technology project manager, has been living with her mother in Laurel with her 3-year-old son. She said she moved because she wanted to provide a safe neighborhood for him to grow up in. One day, she said, she might even pass the house on to him.

She recalled a recent visit to the house when she saw children playing with a ball out back.

"It was just a nice thought that 'this will be my son,'" she said.

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