impact stories

Meet the Zeleke-Belew Family

Learning that we had been accepted as a Habitat partner family, that we had a home that wouldn’t be taken from us, was one of the happiest days of our lives.

For Getenet and Tadelech Zeleke-Belew, every day is filled with worry. Like most parents, their family’s well-being is constantly on their mind, but caring for a child with severe autism comes with a different set of worries. Especially since the home they live in with their son, Joseph, isn’t fit for his condition, and poses a constant risk to his health.

“Every morning before I go to work, I have to clean the front of our home,” explains Getenet. “We always find garbage, empty liquor bottles, and other dangerous trash on the ground outside from the neighbours. If I don’t clean it, Joseph will try to pick it up when he goes outside.”

It’s not only what waits outside that puts their family’s health at risk. Because Joseph cannot use the bathroom on his own, his mother, as her children’s primary caregiver, must help him every time. As Tadelech gets older, carrying around the weight of her fully-grown son gets harder and harder, especially as arthritis worsens in her knees.

But the scariest lurking threat is time. When Joseph’s sister Sara turns 21, they will be forced to move out of their assigned apartment, as she will no longer be a co-dependent and qualify them for their current space. For a family already struggling in the small amount of space they have, this loss is devastating.

Hope is on the horizon for the Zeleke-Belews

After discovering that their home would be reassigned after their daughter’s 21st birthday, they began searching for another option to ensure their family – in particular, their son – would have a safe place to call home. That is when they learned about Habitat for Humanity GTA and its groundbreaking model for affordable homeownership.

“Learning that we had been accepted as a Habitat partner family, that we had a home that wouldn’t be taken from us, was one of the happiest days of our lives,” Getenet says. Even though he works full-time as a parking lot attendant, he did the majority of their family’s 500 volunteer hours, helping to build homes at the Pinery site. When they move in in 2018, their family will have a fully-accessible Habitat GTA home, built to ensure that Joseph’s special needs are met, and that his family can thrive in their new space.

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