The Huerta FamilyGabriel, Maria, Maximiliano (7) and Sophie (4)
Gabriel and Maria Huerta are both originally from Mexico and were married in 2006. Gabriel is a bus driver for MTD, a job he has held for more than 10 years. Maria is a homemaker and cares for their two young children, Max and Sophia. Max has achondroplasia, a form of short-limbed dwarfism. Maria was the sole caretaker for her mother and younger sister who both suffered and eventually passed away from early dementia. Other family members have also passed away from early onset dementia. It is something she fears for herself and she worries about her kids and husband if she too were to develop the disease.
Due to the high cost of housing, the family currently rents the living room of a home on the east side of Santa Barbara. They have no privacy and various other tenants enter the house and room often. The house has an old style roof material that is not ideal for their son’s condition which causes respiratory tract infections. A new Habitat home will mean privacy, security and stability for the family.
The Lopez Family:Guillermo, Marisol, Guillermo Jr. (16), Alexa (13), Abril (10), and Genaro (10)
Guillermo Lopez was born in Acapulco, Mexico in 1970. Guillermo went to school up until 11th grade before entering the construction industry. Marisol Guillermo was also born in Acapulco, Mexico. Marisol completed the first year of university. The two met in 7th grade in 1983 and were married in 1993. Guillermo and Marisol emigrated to the United States in 1990 in search of a better life and to help their parents financially. As children, they both witnessed the struggle their parents endured to provide food, education and a roof over their family’s head.
The couple has four children: Guillermo Jr., a student at San Marcos High School; Alexa, a student at Roosevelt, and twins Abril and Genaro. The family also has a pet guinea pig named Cleo who they adore. Guillermo is a roofer and has worked for the past 25 years at a small, local roofing company. Marisol has worked for the past 12 years as a housekeeper for a local hotel and cleans people’s homes on the side. Marisol volunteers regularly at her children’s schools and is part of a group of parents on the Westside of Santa Barbara that formed to provide resources to further help their kids and local school. They provide tutoring and resources. Marisol and Guillermo are very involved in their children’s educations and see it as their first priority. Their oldest son, Guillermo Jr., is part of a youth employment program so he can get his first job with the city. The two parents say they couldn’t be prouder.
When the family applied for a Habitat Home, the six of them shared a small 2-bedroom apartment. The space is so small and leaves little space for the kids to study or play. Guillermo and Marisol are proud to show their children that hard work pays off.
The Polunets Family:Bogdan, Valentyna, Yulia (10), and Nicole (1 year)
After high school, Bogdan was drafted into the Soviet Army for a 2-year service. After the army, Bogdan worked in construction for five years before he moved to the US in 1997 with his parents, brothers and sister as religious refugees. Valentyna graduated from college with a degree in the textile industry. After college she worked at the local factory as the senior technician.
Valentyna and Bogdan met in 2002 during Bogdan’s short visit to his hometown. They were married in 2005 and seven years later Valentyna and their oldest daughter, Yulia, were able to join Bogdan in the United States. The couple’s second daughter, Nicole, was born in 2016.
Yulia is in the fifth grade, and enjoys ballroom dancing, tennis and loves to ride her bike. She dreams of becoming a pediatrician, and a professional dancer when she grows up. She loves to help her mom around the house and play with her younger sister. Nicole just turned one and is starting to learn to walk. She is the family’s pride and joy. Bogdan and Valentyna work full-time as caregivers. Because of the high cost of housing, the family currently lives in a small 1-bedroom apartment. Yulia looks forward to having her own room, having the space for sleepovers and her own desk where she can do her homework. The family looks forward to a larger home where they can have a dining table and eat meals together.