HOUSTON -

Twenty-two families filed into a building, thinking it was just another step in the process to qualify for a home in the Houston Habitat For Humanity Program.

They went before the organization's board of directors to answer questions they thought were needed to complete their applications. When some described their need for a new home, they were overcome with emotion.

"I want somewhere for my grandkids so that they don't have to keep coming to an apartment complex," said Debra Cooper, fighting back tears. "So that they have somewhere to go, somewhere to play, somewhere to be safe."

Little did they know they had already been selected, and the event at the United Way Center in Washington Heights was a surprise.

After being given symbolic hard hats, the families stood and got the news -- they had all been accepted and they were going to be new homeowners. A roaring round of applause and cheers rang throughout the room.

"I was always a hard worker but now my dream's come true," said Cooper. "God has blessed me to be a homeowner and I can't wait."

The news was good for everyone, including 31-year-old Sandra Barrera. She is the primary caretaker in a small mobile home in North Houston -- living with her two children, her parents and her grandmother. The new home will give them more space and a safer environment.

"I never thought I was going to get a 'yes,'" said Barrera. "But they were my hope and my only chance. And I am very happy."

Being selected is just one more step in the process. The new homeowners are required to take 50 hours of financial planning classes, volunteer 100 hours of community service to Houston Habitat and put about 100 hours of sweat equity into their new homes.