Candy Royce, 48, had always wanted a home -- preferably one with a working heater. She and her mother Dawn Royce, 69, rented in dangerous neighborhoods most of her life.

"The house that we lived in was falling apart," Candy Royce said. "Outside, you could hear gunshots and see gang and drug activity. I wanted my three kids out of there."

Candy and her mother are recent residents of Long Beach thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, which partners with low-income families to build or refurbish homes.

Today, the nonprofit organization will kick off another build for a family in need. This is the eighth home the group will construct with local Lutheran churches under the Long Beach-based Thrivent Builds and Thrivent Financial programs. The city of Long Beach also donated the land for the new home on Atlantic Avenue near Poly High School.

Not only do the homeowners benefit from the project, but the Rev. Garry Mohr of St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Long Beach said that his youth group also learns about supporting the community with more than just their money.

"It's healthy to actually physically get involved," Mohr said. "Giving of yourself -- there's a real blessing to be found in doing that. Our church body is stronger because of it and it's rewarding to know that it's received with gratitude."

Candy Royce heard about the nonprofit organization through a friend and gave it a try. In order to qualify for a home, homebuyers must have good credit, be low-income and be willing to participate in homebuyer education classes.

In January 2012, Candy Royce, her mother and her three adopted children moved into their new house. Since then, Candy Royce said they are more at ease and feel safe to go outside.

"We've become a part of the community and we've started doing a lot of new activities that we've never done before," Candy Royce said. "Feeling safe in a neighborhood has changed our personality. We've become more outgoing as a family "¦ It's amazing how much we've opened up."

Today's kickoff event will celebrate the start of the new home, which will take about six months to construct.

"What I love about (today's) event is that it really highlights a true community partnership," said Erin Rank, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles. "Often our homeowners are living in overcrowded or dangerous conditions. Having a house provides immediate stability for the family to live and the children to play."

grace.wong@presstelegram.com