Home is where the heart is. Yet for many hard working people among us, the dream of home ownership seems an unattainable goal. Habitat for Humanity helps those people.
Katie Holroyd of Habitat for Humanity of Benton County spoke at the Jan. 13 Madison County Health Coalition meeting about the benefits of home ownership, the mission of Habitat, and the ways groups and individuals can promote that mission.
Homeowners, Holroyd said, build wealth through their financial investment in their homes. They tend to move less often and so promote stability, which benefits children and their progress in school.
Studies find correlations between homeownership and several positive outcomes: Home owners tend to vote more often in elections and engage more in civic activities than renters. And their stability tends to confer positive mental and physical health effects.
Habitat for Humanity is a Christian-based non-profit, Holroyd said, but is not affiliated in any way with any denomination. Habitat groups do not proselytize.
Rather, the mission is to put Christian principles to work in the world by advocating for affordable housing for lower income people, she said.
Habitat works world-wide through individual non-profits or non-governmental organizations, and Arkansas is home to 17 Habitat affiliates.
Holroyd explained that the Benton County affiliate works as most do. They raise funds up front then loan that money, interest free, to families who quality. Though interest free, families are required to repay those loans, and they must also provide “sweat equity” by helping with their home’s construction themselves and by recruiting others to help.
Habitat’s family support committee monitors and guides borrowers, helping them stay on track with payments and keep their homes. But just as in the conventional lending market, default will result in foreclosure.
Holroyd said volunteers are welcome in all three areas of Habitat’s work – administration, construction, or in their ReStores.
Students who work in a Habitat office can earn internship credit and job references, she said.
Anyone 16 years old and up can work on construction sites—though teens 16 to 17 must work with parents. It’s a good place to hone skills in the building trades at all levels, Holroyd said, from apprentice to journeyman.
Habitat construction managers, for example, serve as contractors, managing materials and construction teams composed of 8 to 10 workers.
Construction teams typically work from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for 12 to 16 weeks to complete a home, she said, weather permitting. When homes or other buildings slated for demolition are donated to Habitat, construction teams work as de-construction teams, salvaging materials and contents such as cabinets, trim, toilets, and light fixtures to sell in a Habitat ReStore.
A Habitat ReStore is a non-profit home improvement store that sells donated good-quality home furnishings, fixtures, appliances, home accessories, and building materials.
Northwest Arkansas has two ReStore locations, one in Bentonville and one in Fayetteville. They offer good, low-cost home improvement items and support the local Habitat non-profits, helping to place more low-income people in their own homes.
Donations of time and money are always welcome, Holroyd said.