Carters help build Habitat home in San Jose

Former President Jimmy Carter volunteered in San Jose to fulfill the American dream for an immigrant couple from Ethiopia.
October 8, 2013 7:38:30 PM PDT
A construction worker showed up on a job site in San Jose Tuesday with some unusual qualifications. He's a furniture maker, an engineer by training, and a former president of the United States. Jimmy Carter was volunteering to fulfill the American dream for an immigrant couple from Ethiopia.

The 39th president of the United States arrived with a satchel filled with tools, prepared to work. He turned 89 last week. For 30 straight years, he and Rosalyn Carter have donated one week of their time.

In San Jose, Mr. Carter immediately focused on creating a new front door frame, but his labor was interrupted when the couple who will live at the home arrived. The wife is a nurse's assistant and her husband is a machinist. Their family of four currently lives in a one-bedroom apartment.

"It's hard to buy a house in San Jose because it's expensive, but we are blessed and I want to say thank you Habitat and thank you Jimmy Carter," said Mulugeta Jenber. The couple still can't believe the home will be theirs. "This is a dream. I don't believe it's true," said Jenber's wife Tiruwork Leyew . While their dream has come true, many others are still struggling.

Asked if the government shutdown and ongoing economic problems are making it difficult for low-income families to achieve home ownership, Carter said, "The first ones that get hurt, particularly with the present, I'd say, Democratic and Republican members of Congress, are the ones that don't have lobbyists and don't have big money to pay during the campaign. And so the average person who's in trouble is the one that gets hurt."

Ironically, it's the recession and the sub-prime loan crisis that are helping Habitat meet growing demand for affordable housing. As banks donate some of their repossessed homes, Habitat will build or rehab a record 100,000 homes this year.

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