A home for all

Habitat for Humanity volunteers build a home in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers build a home in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento.

Founded in 1985, Sacramento Habitat for Humanity (SHfH) celebrates its 20th anniversary on September 11, 2005. During the last 20 years, SHfH has built 46 affordable homes in Sacramento County. However, over 76,000 people still live in substandard, overcrowded housing. So, the need for affordable housing is great, and SHfH is expanding its home production one home at a time to help meet the need for safe and affordable places to live and raise families. The local SHfH affiliate completed six homes in 2004, and is on target to complete 10 homes in 2005 and 13 homes in 2006.

SHfH’s vision is to build and renovate houses for low-income families in the Sacramento area, to strengthen communities and to provide families with a decent place to live and grow.

SHfH’s mission is to build affordable homes in partnership with families in need, supported by a host of volunteers, faith-based organizations, donors, and corporations for the benefit of our community. SHfH recognizes its social and moral responsibility to help the working poor and works in dynamic partnerships to develop the community, teach others that inadequate housing is unacceptable, and works to increase overall home ownership in the communities.

SHfH is a nonprofit “business with a heart” that provides housing to very low-income families living within Sacramento County that earn 30 percent to 50 percent of the area median income (AMI). In 2004 and 2005, the Sacramento County AMI for a family of four was $64,100—this means SHfH currently serves families earning $19,000 to $32,000 annually. These are the working poor, people who would never qualify for a conventional home loan in this competitive California market.

In order to qualify, families must be living in substandard or overcrowded housing, or must be paying 50 percent or more of their income for housing expenses. SHfH offers zero-interest mortgages with no down payment to qualified first-time home buyers. SHfH families agree to work 500 hours of “sweat equity” building their homes.

SHfH also tithes 10 percent of all unrestricted funds received to Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) to the “House for a House” campaign that helps build affordable housing for families overseas. Based on SHfH’s fiscal year 2006 budget and the current international home-building average cost of $4,200 per house, an anticipated tithe of over $54,000 will build 13 homes over the next year. For each home we build in Sacramento, one will be built in Nicaragua.

Locally, SHfH operates a ReStore facility acting as a discount reseller of donated new- and-used building materials at 30 percent to 50 percent off the suggested-retail prices. The incentive for donors to give building materials is the potential for a tax write off. Currently, this 45,000 square-foot facility is open to the public, Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at 426 N. 7th Street in Sacramento.

The ReStore screens new donations and puts aside materials that are useful for SHfH affordable-housing construction projects for low-income partner families. There are a full range of products to choose from, similar to the inventory at any “big box” home-improvement store. The facility serves as a resource where low-income families can purchase new- and-used building materials, at deeply discounted prices, so they can maintain their homes. One family actually painted their entire home for $10!

SHfH estimates that approximately 6 to 7 million pounds of material were kept out of landfills in 2004, providing a environmentally friendly alternative for manufactures, retailers, wholesalers, contractors, small business owners and homeowners to reuse their outdated inventory for the good of the community.

So how did Habitat for Humanity get started? In 1965, Millard and Linda Fuller, the founders of Habitat for Humanity, were at a crossroads in their life. Born in Alabama, Millard was an attorney whose goal in life was to be a millionaire by age 30. By age 29, he had achieved his goal and had all the material trappings of a successful life, but at what price? He was working long hours and earning lots of money, but he and his wife were separated and on the verge of divorce. Being a couple of strong Christian faith, they looked inward for God’s guidance. The message was clear: Divest yourselves of your wealth. The Fullers were obedient to this guidance, gave away their money and started to search for God’s meaning and a purpose for their lives.

The Fuller’s search led them to a Christian community, Koinonia Farm, located outside of Americus, Georgia, in Sumpter County, to visit an old friend. There, they met the Rev. Clarence Jordon, a humble biblical scholar with a degree in Greek New Testament and well-known as a speaker and writer. The Rev. Jordon founded the community in 1942, and it was a fully integrated and totally committed to nonviolence and economic sharing—in other words, a Christian community ahead of its time. Koinonia Farm allowed people of faith and of all races and creeds to live together and practice the Christian principles espoused by Jesus Christ. The Fullers were so inspired by the Reverend Jordon and his practical application of Christian principles that their two-hour visit turned into a month-long stay.

In 1968, at the Rev. Jordon’s invitation, the Fullers became deeply involved with a plan called Koinonia Partners. They laid out 42 half-acre sites on the north side of Koinonia’s large farm to build houses for poor rural families. They solicited gifts and no-interest loans from benefactors, charged no interest and made no profit from the new homeowners. Thus the Fund for Humanity was created.

From 1973 to 1976, the Fullers were called to travel as missionaries to Zaire to work in Mbandaka, the capital city of the equator region, building simple, decent cement-block houses for people who had been living in stick- and-mud shacks. In 1976, the Fullers returned to Georgia, excited by how partnership house- and-community building had passed its overseas test with flying colors. Soon, they hosted a group of 26 people at Koinonia Farm, and a dear colleague from Zaire, in a planning session to form a new organization to continue this crazy new idea they’d pioneered. They described their vision of a worldwide ministry that would become Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI).

Today, Habitat has over 1,600 affiliates nationwide and, in 2004, completed its 54,000th home. Habitat builds over 5,400 homes annually in the United States and is currently the 19th largest residential homebuilder. Over 90 percent of the work on Habitat’s home construction is done by volunteers, instead of being done by paid subcontractors in the for-profit homebuilding industry.

Worldwide, Habitat has over 2,200 affiliates in 100 countries and, on August 15, completed its 200,000th home in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the 200,001st in Kanyakumari, India, site of our tsunami-relief effort. During the last 29 years, Habitat has housed over 1,000,000 people in over 3,000 communities worldwide. Habitat completes a home somewhere in the world, on average, every 24 minutes!

Habitat for Humanity works because it enables people to put their faith into practice. It is an acting out, or literally, a building up of what people believe to be God’s will and way. It works because it’s a hand-up, not a hand out—it’s empowerment on the most basic level. Each homeowner family is expected to help build their own house. The mortgage payments on the no-interest, no-profit loans go back into a revolving Fund for Humanity to build more houses. The results are lower housing costs, pride in ownership and positive relationships. It works because it is just common sense—as Habitat founder Millard Fuller said, “Everyone who gets sleepy at night ought to have a decent place to sleep, on terms they can afford to pay.”

ShfH would like to thank the greater-Sacramento community for its generous support over the last 20 years. If you would like more information, please contact SHfH at (916) 440-1215, or find us at our Web site at www.shfh.org.