Photo | Habitat for Humanity
Volunteers with the Southeast Alabama affiliate of Habitat for Humanity construct homes and rehab existing shelters for those in need.
From the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina to the everyday struggles that go along with impoverished living conditions, Habitat for Humanity is an organization that continues to assist many people in need.
“They helped us find somewhere safe for me and my boys,” Chasline, a mom of two, said. When she was faced with unsafe neighborhoods and extremely high mortgage rates, she wasn’t sure of where to turn. Her sister and a Facebook post led her to seek the team at Habitat and she was able to find assistance.
Cleveland is another person who benefited from Habitat’s mission. With winds of up to 174 mph, 2005’s Hurricane Katrina is tied with Hurricane Harvey as the costliest storm to date. Those who were affected still remember the catastrophic hurricane. “I was on a list with FEMA, and I’m blessed to have had [Habitat for Humanity],” Cleveland said. “I’ve been a part of their organization for over 10 years now. You have to remember, it’s a hand up, not a hand out.”
When it comes to who qualifies and who can get housing assistance, it’s all a process. “You have to have some income,” Cleveland said. “Not a lot, but something to show you try.”
“Don’t give up,” Chasline said. “Don’t assume. Use the resources that are out there.”
The mission of the Southeast Alabama affiliate of Habitat for Humanity is not only to build shelter, but to offer ways to improve strength, stability and self-reliance. It is constantly working to eradicate substandard housing and help low-income families.
“We currently do that in several ways,” said Courtney Rouse-Heinz, who is the local executive director. “We build new construction homes and rehab existing homes to sell to low-income families in our community. In addition, we provide critical home repairs for owner-occupied homes who are also low-income families. The direct impact on the families receiving these services is invaluable. These families then become a vital part of the community. They are now invested in the area and want to continue to see the area thrive. The family pays property taxes which help our community with roads, bridges, schools, etc. In addition, HFHSWA (Habitat for Humanity Southwest Alabama) helps remove blight from areas which increases the property values.”
From bringing people up and showing them that life can get better, the organization strives to create lasting positive effects. You, too, can directly impact a family in our local community by volunteering or by simply donating or shopping at their ReStore. “The thing I love about Habitat is that it is such a tangible experience,” Rouse-Heinz said. “People who come out and volunteer on our job sites get to see the fruits of their labor.”
It may just be partaking in laying a slab of concrete of the ground, but when they leave, “they can turn around and see the walls standing that they helped to put up,” she said. It’s not just a building though. The volunteers can meet the families who will benefit or at least get to learn the story about the family who they are helping.
The biggest asset to Habitat is the volunteers. “There are a number of ways to get involved,” Rouse-Heinz said. “Our ReStore is one option. We get a number of shipments [to our store] weekly and sell anything that pertains to furnishing or building a home. We receive donations as well. Volunteers can unload and set up various items throughout the store. They also can help with basic cleaning duties and painting. We always have projects throughout the year in our community. We not only have our homeownership program with eight to 10 brand new houses being built yearly, we have veterans home repair and critical home repair programs as well.”
Not only do volunteers help the community as a whole, they learn some valuable skills that can last a lifetime. “They will gain great knowledge of doing anything from building walls, floating sheetrock, new flooring, roofing and painting,” she said.
With partnership programs, Habitat works toward revitalizing the community. With over 60 homes throughout Mobile County, the organization provides adequate living conditions for various families at a reasonable price. Each program and each facet of Habitat for Humanity is possible due to the amount of time and effort volunteers put forth. Without them, many families would not have access to affordable and sustainable housing.
From helping others to witnessing the effects a few good deeds can have on people, being a part of the organization is invaluable. “I think what I am most grateful for is being able to meet such amazing people,” Rouse-Heinz said. “The families we partner with, the volunteers who work on our projects, the staff that work so hard, the customers in our ReStore…I get to see the good in people every day.”
For more information on volunteering or assistance, visit habitatswalabama.org.
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