Formed in 1965, Self-Help Enterprises is a nonprofit organization dedicated to self-help housing, sewer and water development, housing rehabilitation, multifamily housing, and homebuyer programs in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The goal of SHE is to help farm laborers and other low-income families to help themselves. This concept of "self-help" is based upon the conviction that, given the proper tools, individuals can and will do the work necessary to improve their living conditions. SHE's role is ideally limited to providing technical services and support, helping families and communities compete for scarce financial resources and empowering people to be leaders. With this conviction, SHE follows its mission to improve the lives of low-income residents in the San Joaquin Valley through housing and related programs and services.
The walls of Edith’s house in the Self-Help Enterprises neighborhood were still drab gray sheetrock splotched with white. No carpet covered the rough concrete flooring. No doors hung in the doorways lining the hall. The house was still several weeks away from completion. But in her vivid imagination, it was already home for Edith and her 5-year-old son. Ever since she saw the Self-Help Enterprises newspaper announcement about a new housing project in Goshen, Edith has pictured raising her son in this house. As she walked through the house during construction, she could see herself reclining on the living room sofa watching through the patio door as her son played in the back yard.
Since her son was born, Edith has tried to find a suitable place for them to live on their own. She looked into subsidized housing, but after 5 years on the waiting list, she still hasn’t received a call. She also considered buying, but couldn’t afford the mortgage in neighborhoods where she would feel comfortable living as a single mom with a young child. So she and her son were still sharing the small bedroom she had as a teenager in an apartment with her mom, stepdad, and 3 siblings. “It’s the smallest room in the house,” she explained. “It only fits the bed and the dresser with just a little space to walk.”
In their new SHE home, they have room to spread out and do things they could only dream of before. Edith’s son’s 6th birthday was his best ever. “He always wanted a puppy and they didn’t let us have puppies at the apartments, so we were now able to go and adopt one.” Building her own house through SHE enabled Edith to provide a secure home for her son, as well as continue toward her career goals. “If I’d get a normal house I wouldn’t be able to go to school because it would be too expensive,” she reflects. “There are a lot of people like me who can’t afford going to school, having a job, and paying their mortgage.” With her busy schedule, Edith may not find a lot of time to live out her fantasy of reclining on the sofa or soaking in her bath, but she is well on the way to fulfilling the larger dream of providing a good life for her son. “Even though it was so much work,” she says, “I will never regret this opportunity. We love our new home.”
As of June 2013, Self-Help Enterprises had helped families build 5,994 new homes and rehabilitate 6,192 homes; completed 28,592 water and sewer connections; helped 1,568 families become first-time homebuyers; and completed 1,306 multifamily housing projects. In 2012 alone, SHE's production included 46 new homes, 81 rehabilitations, 77 water and sewer projects, and 48 multifamily housing developments. Additionally, SHE provided homeownership counseling to 612 people, and assisted 57 first-time homebuyers in 2012.