New Brunswick

Blind musician gets new home in time for Christmas

Shelby Murray is moving into a house of her own for the first time in her 25 years thanks to the support of her community and Habitat for Humanity.

'I’ve always lived in trailers, but an actual house, that’s pretty neat,' says musician Shelby Murray

Shelby (left) and Carolyn Murray will movie into their new house in time for Christmas. (Chantal Landry)

Shelby Murray is moving into a house of her own for the first time in her 25 years, thanks to the support of her community and Habitat for Humanity.

Shelby Murray is a familiar face around Salisbury, the village outside Moncton where she lives with her mother, Carolyn. She describes herself as "totally blind" but didn't let that stop her from teaching herself to play the piano, accordion and tin flute.

"I started playing when I was just a wee thing," Shelby said.

Now, she can do it from the comfort of her own home, a newly built 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom energy-efficient bungalow.

Old home not fit to live in

"I've always lived in trailers, but, yeah, an actual house — that's pretty neat, that's pretty awesome," Murray said.

Shelby's new address is not far down the road from her former home, which had a leaking roof and was mouldy and often cold. 

"Hopefully, I can go to bed at night not feeling like a piece of ice," she said.

Carolyn Murray agreed. The old trailer was no place for the family to hang its hat, but she didn't see any other options until a neighbour suggested applying to Habitat for Humanity. 

That got the ball rolling, and within three months of the groundbreaking, the new house was up.

"I don't think there's a word for everything that's gone on, how much appreciation, how much overwhelming support and knowing that the roof isn't going to fall in or, what we're breathing is clean," Carolyn said.

"It's hard to describe all that."

Chantal Landry, development manager for Habitat for Humanity Moncton, said the Murray family is a good fit, because of its real need for safe and affordable housing.

"They had a mini-home that was very old that was starting to deteriorate essentially," Landry said.

Community effort

Once Habitat for Humanity accepted the application, Landry said, people from Salisbury and surrounding communities stepped in to work with the group and get the house built.

"Over 1,000 volunteer hours were put into this home and lots of tender loving care, from cooking lunches to cleaning, to ensuring coffee was hot," she said. "So yes, this is definitely a community build."

Habitat for Humanity oversees the construction and offers the homeowners an interest-free mortgage. Part of what the group also does is makes sure the occupants can afford payments on the home, as well as utilities after the walls are up and the volunteers leave.

"It'll cost them very little to heat," Landry said.

She said people who think they might be eligible for a Habitat for Humanity home and are interested in one should contact the group.

"We're still looking for families in Moncton," said Landry.

Shelby Murray was looking forward to her first night in the new home Monday, just in time for the holidays. After entertaining the community for years with her music, she now has something in return: a warm, dry home.

"I just I can't express my gratitude enough for what these people have done," she said. "I'm sorry I seem to be at a loss for words."