Tom Collishaw, CEO, Self-Help Enterprises
Many residents in the farmworker community of Goshen, CA, lived in substandard conditions. Their homes had no insulation, no indoor toilet, no city water.
In the late 1950s, Lilia Jimenez lived with her husband and children in the rural community of Goshen, CA, in an uninsulated house that had no indoor toilet or city water. They were not alone -- many in this farmworker community lived in similar conditions.
In 1963, together with pioneers from Self-Help Enterprises (SHE), the Jimenez clan, along with two other families, embarked on a journey to build the first three mutual self-help homes in the nation. Little did they know they were building the foundation for a better future for thousands of families across America.
Despite this auspicious start, Goshen continued to struggle for decades with substandard housing and a lack of essential public services. The community also lacked key infrastructure such as lighting, recreational space and medical services.
But in the 1990s, SHE started a major investment in the community to improve options for affordable housing, recreation and essential services. To chart their course, they engaged locally with the Goshen Planning Committee, Tulare County and the neighboring city of Visalia, among other local stakeholders.
By 2003, things were very different in Goshen. SHE had facilitated the construction of 45 mutual self-help homes, and a 64-unit apartment rental project (Goshen Village I). The organization also built a wastewater collection system, and helped residents connect to the community’s sewer system.
In 2004, a prominent landowner who wanted to help approached SHE with some ideas about a youth recreation area. With a donation of 40 acres, SHE embarked on a multi-year strategy to help improve infrastructure, including a recreation area, housing, and a community center: Goshen Park Village.
Goshen Park Village was developed adjacent to SHE’s existing affordable housing projects, and combines health, housing, and recreational space. It includes 77 mutual self-help homes, a 56-unit affordable rental housing development (Goshen Village II), an improved 10-acre community park and a permanent health clinic.
Each of the rental housing projects – Goshen Village I and II – feature a playground, basketball court, community center, after-school program and exercise classes. In addition, Goshen Village II is Build It Green rated, in keeping with SHE’s commitment to sustainability.
The single-family homes, are built by homebuyers, who provide over 70 percent of the construction labor. The three- and four-bedroom homes have energy-efficient amenities, two-car garages and landscaped front yards. Today, there are a total of 122 self-help homes in Goshen.
The new, diverse housing options in Goshen help families save money. In addition, mortgages are structured so that they don’t exceed 30 percent of the buyer’s income, and apartment rent is based on what residents can afford, which helps keep the community financially stable.
Community stakeholders were essential to many parts of the Goshen project. For example, Peter Malloch Park was developed as a collaboration with Goshen Community Services District, and community residents participated directly in the design and planning of the park, the first public recreation space in the history of Goshen.
The park includes a playground, a trail, a picnic area with a grill, a baseball backstop and two full soccer fields. From opening day, it has been a gathering place for residents of all ages.
The design of Goshen Park Village also minimizes the need for motorized transportation. The medical clinic is operated by Family HealthCare Network, a long-time partner of Self-Help Enterprises, and is adjacent to Goshen Village II, offering affordable medical care within walking distance for much of Goshen.
The success of Goshen Park Village has spawned a larger vision. SHE purchased 40 more acres next to Goshen Park Village and has plans to develop. In addition to more housing – 89 mutual self-help homes and 140 apartment units – there are plans for a fresh food market, commercial development and expanded transportation options. It is the next logical step in fostering Goshen as a sustainable community of opportunity.