GREAT FALLS — The 2100 block of 23rd Avenue South was filled with celebration despite the rainy and windy weather as soon-to-be homeowners got to recognize their hard work and progress, while welcoming others to the neighborhood.
The event is referred to as "Dream Street," in which ten families take on the Montana weather in building their home from the ground up.
"It feels great," said Brandon Smith, who will soon be moving in with his family. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and I'm very, very excited."
The NeighborWorks Owner-Built Homes program is a part of the national Mutual Self-Help Housing program, which is funded by USDA Rural Development. Qualified buyers earn “sweat equity” that make their home affordable. One core piece of the program is that no family can move in until all ten homes are complete.
Speaking on the experience, Smith said, "It is a lot of hard work. It's a lot of dedication. Sometimes, you can get discouraged, but I will say it's a ton of fun. It's well worth it, and you just got to trust the process."
Tifani Crawford-Barsotti and Taryn Okes are not only next-door neighbors. they are also twin sisters. Their dream of owning a home has now come to reality.
"For the longest time, I didn't think I was going to be able to have my own home," said Crawford- Barsotti. "My husband and I tried to go get a loan and we couldn't get enough to even buy a trailer. Then, I heard about NeighborWorks and its program, and found out I actually can do it, and not only can I build a home, but I can complete the childhood dream I had of building a home with my sister Taryn, because she's my twin and we're obviously pretty close. It's really cool to be able to be a neighbor with her and to build a community with all the rest of my neighbors too, because there's really nothing like actually having to come out every day and build homes with people."
Taryn said the program has given her much more than a home. It's also taught her various skills.
"I know how to side my house now, so if something happens, I can reach my house. If I want to build an expansion, I can do it. After we're all done here, I'm actually planning to build my own shed because after building ten houses and ten garages, a shed should be no problem to put up."
To date, 165 homes have been built in Great Falls through the program.
NeighborWorks Great Falls director Sherrie Arey stated, "These ten families that come together, work together, build together, this is sometimes the only way for families to be able to get into a home, take that rent, turn it into a mortgage and turn it into their wealth that owning a home creates."
Arey added that there is no prerequisite to know how to build a home once you qualify on your first day.
"You're out here learning the skills," Arey said. "People that think that they can't get on a roof, swing a hammer, cut a straight line, but by the end of this, they can repair many things in their home. They can repair the toilet, they can repair the door, they know what to look for in the problems of their home. They build skills that not only help build a home, but stay in a home and protect their home from now into many years."