4. QUALITY EDUCATION

Iraq war veteran building his house in St. Johns County with Habitat for Humanity – St. Augustine Record

Written by Amanda

Iraq War veteran Kristopher Barajas found his way to St. Augustine after a spiritual awakening that led him through other countries, he said. 

Now he plans to build a house in the area with the help of Habitat for Humanity. 

“I’m excited about it, very excited,” he said. “(I’ll) finally have, like, a home base to stay in and come back to whenever I do travel again. … It’s nice to have a place to come back to.”

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With the help of grant funds, Habitat for Humanity of St. Augustine and St. Johns County is helping Barajas build a house in the nonprofit’s Canopy Oaks community in West Augustine.

The $15,000 grant is from Wells Fargo, which is providing grants to more than 230 Habitat for Humanity affiliates as part of a nationwide effort to help low- to moderate-income families build and improve homes, according to a news release from the nonprofit. 

“This funding is part of a $7.75 million donation to Habitat for Humanity International through the Wells Fargo Builds program to support the construction, renovation and repairing of more than 350 affordable homes across the country,” according to the release. “Wells Fargo Builds is part of Wells Fargo’s $1 billion philanthropic commitment to create more housing affordability solutions by 2025.” 

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit that builds quality homes for people and bases their mortgage payments on their income.

The future homeowners help build their homes and the homes of other applicants, and they are required to attend financial literacy and homebuyer education classes, according to the nonprofit. 

The lack of affordable housing in St. Johns County is a major focus for local governments, nonprofits and others. 

“More and more families struggle to find affordable housing in St. Johns County,”  Malinda Everson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of St. Augustine and St. Johns County, said in the release. “With rising inflation and cost for housing, many are facing homelessness and living in substandard conditions.” 

On a recent visit, volunteers including Barajas were completing their first day of work on his home, and the first beams that will help support the outer walls were in place. 

Purple Heart 

Barajas, 37, is a Purple Heart recipient. He served in the Navy for seven years and was a fleet marine force corpsman stationed with a U.S. Marines division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he said. He did a tour in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. 

Just by looking at him, one wouldn’t be able to tell what he’s been through. During a battle in Fallujah, he was hit by shrapnel, he said. 

“A mortar landed about 50 yards away from where I was. … It felt like I got punched in the face,” he said. 

After getting out of the service, going to college and attempting to get into the medical field, Barajas had a spiritual awakening, he said. 

“I was having a cup of coffee and literally, like, touched by the grace of God,” he said. 

That led him to drop everything and start fresh, he said. He journeyed through Mexico and Central America. He also lived in Texas for a couple of years. 

He visited St. Augustine and decided to move here. He said he loves the culture and heritage, which reminds him of Mexico, Central America and Spain. 

He moved a couple of different times before finding a place to rent in Lincolnville with his pit bull, Rocky. His most recent move came after the room he was renting became expensive, he said. 

He began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity not only to work toward building his own home but also to get skills in the construction trade. He would like to go into that profession, he said.  

With the first walls going up, he’s probably going to be able to move in by September, according to Everson. 

That’s a day Barajas is looking forward to, he said. 

“I love the weather. I love the history here,” he said. “I love being by the beach. And it’s just where I was guided to.” 

Source: staugustine.com

About the author

Amanda

Hi there, I am Amanda and I work as an editor at impactinvesting.ai;  if you are interested in my services, please reach me at amanda.impactinvesting.ai