What difference does a home make?

SHfH helped the Montiero family start anew after a fire devastated their home.

SHfH helped the Montiero family start anew after a fire devastated their home.

When most people hear the words “Habitat for Humanity,” they think of former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter building homes for low income families. As Habitat’s most famous ambassadors for the last 24 years, the Carters once again will lead the Jimmy Carter Work Project from October 28 to November 2, 2007, building 100 homes in the greater Los Angeles area.

Habitat for Humanity’s mission continues year-round, with over 1,600 local affiliates spread across the 50 states. These “grass roots” supporters build or remodel 5,500 or more homes annually, making Habitat the 16th largest residential U.S. homebuilder. Habitat does not make a profit on the home sales and offers zero percent mortgages to qualified partner families.

In 31 years, more than 2,300 active affiliates in 100 countries worldwide have built over 225,000 homes. All of this hard work has helped house over one million people. The army of volunteers completes 60 homes around the world each day. Every 21 minutes, a home is completed by Habitat volunteers somewhere in the world.

There are two vital components to this phenomenal success.

One is Faith. Just as Habitat for Humanity founders Millard and Linda Fuller asked for God’s guidance in a time of personal crisis over 40 years ago, millions of people around the world have asked how they can make a difference in their fellow human being’s lives. The answer is to take action and help their neighbors put roofs over their heads.

The second lifeblood of Habitat for Humanity International is local support in the form of land, money, material and volunteers.

Since its founding in 1985, Sacramento Habitat for Humanity (SHfH) has completed 56 homes within the County. Six additional homes are currently under construction. SHfH has also reached beyond county lines to build 85 homes overseas.

SHfH helps people who live in substandard or overcrowded conditions. Many of them spend more than half of their income on housing expenses. They earn 30 to 50 percent of the area’s median income. In other words, they support a family of four on an income of $20,000 to $33,000.

Habitat’s mission is about “More than Houses.” Habitat is about transforming lives, building communities, and giving future generations the opportunity to live in a safe, decent place. A stable home environment lays the foundation for the children of these families to receive a better education. It gives these children an opportunity to become our future doctors, lawyers, teachers, firemen, policemen and business owners.

The following story is an example of the impact a Habitat home can have in a family’s life.

Five years ago, Richard and Sofia Monteiro’s rental home caught fire while Richard was away. Their twins, Ricardo and Rosalia, were trapped inside the house. Two neighbors saw the smoke, came running and rescued the children. But the twins suffered severe smoke inhalation. They were taken to UC Davis Medical Center, then transferred to Shriners Hospital in critical condition.

Richard was angry. He shook his fist at the sky and asked God, “How could you have done this to my children?”

Doctors put the twins on ventilators to shake the soot loose from their lungs. Fortunately, the fluids changed from black to gray to clear over the next few days.

But in the midst of this tragedy, Richard lost his job. Unable to afford high rental rates, the family moved seven times in the next year, living with family and friends. Richard, Sofia and their five children ended up living with Richard’s mother in a two-bedroom, Tahoe Park home. The seven Monteiro family members shared a single, small room.

The Monteiros wrote in a letter to the Habitat Family Selection Committee about the transformation that took place in their lives.

“As sad and angry as we were at the time of the fire, we believe now that God put us in that situation for a reason. We honestly believe he let our twins survive for a reason. Due to the fire, we have spent the last five years trying to rebuild our lives and stabilize our family.”

Richard found a new and better job as a school counselor for children with severe emotional issues. He also served as the school’s bus driver. The Monteiros cut up their credit cards, paid off their bills and automobile loans, and started to save money. They heard about Habitat for Humanity and came to a Family Orientation. They applied and qualified for the SHFH program and completed their 500 hours of “sweat equity.”

Today, they have a home.

The Monteiro’s home dedication on April 21, 2007 was a time of celebration. The presence of SHfH transformed the Oak Park block.

The Sacramento firefighters who helped rescue the Monteiros five years earlier attended the home dedication ceremony. Tears were running down these strong public servants’ faces.

As I walked back to my truck that afternoon, a vehicle pulled up and the driver rolled down his window.

The driver said, “I want to thank you. My brother and his family would never have a home of their own without your organization and all the volunteers who helped build it. Thank you!”

God works in mysterious ways. Each of us is our brother’s keeper. Join Sacramento Habitat for Humanity to help grow our vision: to help more Sacramento low-income families have a “hand up, not a hand out,” and the opportunity to own a safe, decent, affordable place to call home.