Imagine you’re living with your family in a one bedroom apartment. No matter what you do, you can’t meet the requirements for a traditional mortgage. It’s frustrating to know you’re spinning in a hamster wheel – working and working but not getting anywhere.
Think of the pride and sense of accomplishment you’d feel when you finally turned the key in the door of a home where everyone in the family could have space to thrive. Austin Habitat for Humanity helps people in our community turn that key.
30 Years of Providing Home Ownership
At the end of last month, I had the opportunity to visit Austin Habitat for Humanity’s newest neighborhood just east of the SH 130 toll road. The small community was bustling with activity as I parked my car and strolled down the street to meet Carly Yansak, Austin Habitat for Humanity’s Communications Manager. It was an important day for the volunteers at Habitat for Humanity. A symbolic wall raising was taking place, as well as a key ceremony for six homes.
In fact, this year marks the 30th anniversary of Austin Habitat for Humanity. Started nine years after Habitat for Humanity was founded, the Austin Chapter of the national non-profit has helped hundreds of families experience the pride and excitement that comes with home ownership.
People Helping People
I found Carly at a home under construction near the end of the cul-de-sac, along with future residents Stephanie Limon and her three children. Stephanie’s story is an amazing one and, without going into too much detail, know she’s overcome obstacles that would stop any number of us dead in our tracks.
After talking with Stephanie, I told her I didn’t know if I could’ve brought myself up to where she is now. Now here she is, wrapping up classes at ACC, grasping a scholarship to St. Edward’s and excited about owning a home where her three kids can have privacy and room to grow.
Stephanie Limon’s home is being built by one of Austin Habitat for Humanity’s oldest partners, Catholic Builders. Catholic Builders is one of the many organizations Austin Habitat for Humanity has developed a partnership with since its inception in 1985. This specific partnership began in the mid-90’s after Bishop McCarthy of the Austin Dioceses introduced the two groups. Since the partnership was founded, Catholic Builders has helped Habitat for Humanity build 21 homes in 19 years.
While Catholic Builders is a faith based partner, Habitat for Humanity also has corporate partners. Some of those are national companies like Wells Fargo and GM. Others are local. Part of the event I attended on January 31st was the issuance of house keys to six families. One family was the recipient of “The House That Beer Built.” This house was constructed through a collaboration between Pinthouse Pizza, Twisted X Brewing Co., Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. and 11 other local brewers who joined together to raise $65K. The Huerta family is excited about calling it home.
Hand Up, Not Handout
There seems to be a misconception about Habitat for Humanity. People generally think the houses are free. Though Habitat’s modest homes are designed to fit the needs of each family, they are also earned. “We give a hand up, not a handout. Our family partners work hard to get their homes. They have to put down a small down payment, pay a mortgage, go through financial classes and contribute 300 hours of what we call ‘sweat equity.’ We do provide home repair services for the elderly and disabled.”
Sweat equity is when family partners help build other homes. Through the financial education aspect of each partnership, families learn about money management, budgeting, asset protection and more. These classes are mandatory for ownership through Habitat for Humanity. All in all, the system is designed to give people pride in ownership and the tools necessary to move forward not just in home ownership, but in life.
Instead of cutting ribbons during key ceremonies, Habitat for Humanity cuts 2x4s. It’s a way to bring things full circle for the new owners. The families were all smiles as they cut through their boards, and the energy was electric as volunteers and donors saw the culmination of months of hard work.
The homes came with an additional gift: a fully stocked pantry courtesy of Capital Area Food Bank. Every home needs food and the non-perishable gifts from another wonderful non-profit in Austin will last the families a long while.
For three decades, Austin Habitat for Humanity has been giving families a hand up. They can’t do it on their own. They need donations and people willing to swing hammers, carry bags of concrete and roof houses. If you’re interested in helping Habitat for Humanity, visit their website for details.
@ElDavidThomas wants to know:
Do you volunteer? Where?