New Habitat Homes Honor Housing Advocate Bob Murray

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Housing and homelessness

The foundations are poured and the sub-flooring is awaiting walls for the construction of six Habitat for Humanity homes to be constructed on Murray Lane in West Harwich. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO


HARWICH — The walls that will support roofs over the heads of six families are scheduled to rise in the next month at Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod's Murray Lane development in West Harwich.

On Monday Habitat introduced the six families who, with sweat equity, will be living in the homes. The gratitude for Habitat's efforts was palpable during the project kick-off meeting.

“It’s a dream for us, is this real?” said Arelis Cruz-Aleman, one of the new homeowners. “Did this really happen to us?”

“It’s a dream come true. What an amazing organization,” added new homeowner Jennifer Lundell.

It’s a complete shock, I can’t believe this is happening. My kids are beyond excited to be having their own space,” said Jessica Howes.

“We’re more than excited, it feels like we won some magical lottery,” said Kathleen Murtha, another of the new homeowners.

Murray Lane is named after the late Bob Murray, who dedicated his life to putting roofs over the heads of needy families.

Murray was committed to housing and established Harwich Ecumenical Council for the Homeless, said Richard Waystack. Murray realized many years ago that what the state was paying to place families in hotel rooms would pay for housing for months, he said, and from that realization HECH was born. When Murray realized there were families who could not pay for food, rent and utilities, the Harwich Family Pantry was established. Now the Family Pantry of Cape Cod, it has grown into the largest food pantry in Southeastern Massachusetts.

“When you see the sign Murray Lane, you realize the epitome of a true saint living among us,” Waystack said.

Murray was a force of nature, and when he saw conditions where people did not have a decent roof over their heads, it consumed him, said Selectman Donald Howell. “Bob is smiling up there because there is another set of roofs over their heads,” he said.

Murray was president of HECH when the West Harwich land now being built on was purchased. It included two existing houses, and the plan was to construct 20 units of housing. But issues arose and the project never got off the ground. The property was eventually subdivided, and Habitat for Humanity Cape Cod purchased the vacant parcel set back from Route 28, established Murray Lane, and is now moving forward with construction.

Habitat Executive Director Wendy Cullinan thanked the town of Harwich for its financial contributions to the project through Community Preservation Act funding and the affordable housing fund. The foundations are done, sub-flooring is in place and the walls of the two- and three-bedroom homes are expected to be under construction by the end of June, director of construction Bob Ryley said.

The lottery winners were Alfred Reyes-Cruz and Arelia Cruz- Aleman; Jennifer Lundell and Felix Garcia; Charles Farraher and Jessica Guess; Jessica Howes; Heather Rose; and Edmond O’Connor and Kathleen Murtha.

Pastor Dianne Arakawa of the First Congregational Church of Harwich said she was thrilled Habitat was doing another build on Cape Cod. The organization has constructed 153 affordable homes on the Cape; three more will be completed this summer and another 12 are in the pipeline.

Arakawa noted the skyrocketing costs of housing on the Cape. In Harwich, she said, the median price for a home is $607,000.

“We salute Habitat for constructing homes for all of God’s children,” Arakawa said.