Habitat for Humanity: A Hand Up, Not a Handout
You have probably heard of Habitat for Humanity. But if you’re not entirely sure exactly what it is, you are not alone.
Habitat has an interesting history dating back to 1976 and a couple named Millard and Linda Fuller. The organization is even older, with roots in a Georgia farm community founded in 1942. The biggest misconception I hear repeatedly is that Habitat builds houses for people – and that is so not true. Habitat is a hand up, not a handout.
Legend has it that Millard Fuller really set out to break the vicious cycle of poverty. He knew that homeowners were far more economically advanced than renters. (The National Association of Realtors estimates that today, a homeowner’s net worth is 41 times that of a renter. 41 times!) What Millard and Linda Fuller knew was that homeownership was the first step in creating economic security and breaking the poverty cycle.
Here in Bergen County, the local chapter (www.HabitatBergen.org) defines its mission as “To Provide Decent, Affordable Homes to Hardworking Bergen County Families.” It does this by collecting donations to build or rehabilitate homes, organizing a volunteer “army” to help build, and having the applicants buy-in with man hours. The recipients must also pay the mortgage on the home. So, contrary to what many people believe, Habitat does not provide folks with a “free home.” Instead, they offer the opportunity to own a home that applicants must qualify for, work to build, and repay.
If you want to give a hand up, contact your local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Get involved in a build. Not good with a hammer? Visit the local Restore on Carver Avenue in Westwood, where you can find a place to donate or purchase gently used furniture and household items. Profits benefit Habitat for Humanity Bergen County.
Or hey, just make a donation. You’ll be helping deserving families realize the dream of homeownership – and creating positive change in your community.