Habitat for Humanity; Providing A Hand-Up Not A Hand Out

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May 1, 2017 - 12:00am

Habitat for Humanity provides homeownership opportunities for families who are in need of an affordable safe home outside of traditional purchase methods.

The charitable organization commonly faces the misconception that homes are provided free of charge.  According to John van Leeuwen, the Executive Director of the Prince Albert chapter, this statement is “absolutely untrue.”

“It is not a hand out,” van Leeuwen said. “Homes are provided to the families for a 500 hours of sweat equity as a downpayment and at a 0% interest mortgage rate. … It’s a hand up in their life, helping them break the cycle of poverty.”

Homes are currently being funded through the generosity of donors, volunteer labour and through the payments received from the mortgages on homes already provided to families.  The Saskatchewan Housing Corportation also recognizes the value of the work Habitat is doing in our local communities and has provided funding towards each home built by Habitat in Saskatchewan.

“Each dollar invested in a Habitat home not only invests in a family but returns to Habitat to be reinvested into future homes”, states van Leeuwen.  “All administration costs associated with our build program are covered through sales at our local Habitat ReStore.  It’s a fantastic program.  When you donate, your money is reinvested over and over and over again.”

Habitat for Humanity has constructed 21 homes for families in Prince Albert with 4 more currently under construction. 

For one family, one of those houses has changed everything.  

Chantal Clarke is in her final year of Social Work, and Shaun Mader is working towards his journeyman ticket as a mechanic. Together the couple applied to Habitat for Humanity two years ago for their three-year-old son Liam.

In Liam’s first year of life, the family resided in a house affected by mold which lead to respiratory issues and sickness.  In recent years, the family realized that their son had regressed into autism. The family has since moved on into a healthier environment in low-income housing, but they said they will feel more secure in their new home.

“With kids who are autistic, they thrive on routine and having a really stable environment,” Clarke said. “That’s the reason we applied for this program… This just helps us provide him with something more stable and concrete.”

Clarke said not having to worry about programming or funding changes they receive through government agencies allows her and Mader to focus on Liam’s childhood development.

“It’s surreal, but we’re really excited,” Clarke said. “I think otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to get a mortgage so soon and it comes with a lot more security, getting a house through Habitat.”

Clarke explained Habitat for Humanity’s mortgage repayment program acts as a safety net for her small family; if their job situations change the terms of the mortgage are updated to reflect those changes.

Clarke and Mader are nearly complete in their sweat equity hours. The family split their time between volunteering at various worksites including their own home and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore building.

“Doing all the hours and seeing the whole process come to life has made us appreciate it more,” Clarke said.

Clarke said her time with Habitat for Humanity has allowed the family to focus on their goals.

“We took some home ownership classes with them… the person facilitating the class asked us to write down our short and long term goals,” Clarke said. “At the time it was really overwhelming writing that down… we’re actually going through that list really quickly… it kinda gave us the push to really get things done.”

2 additional homes are slated to begin construction in 2017.  A ground breaking ceremony will take place on May 5th 2017 to introduce the families receiving the homes as well as to recognize the generosity of all who contribute to the homes.

Prince Albert Habitat also runs the Habitat ReStore located at 911 Marquis Road.  Items such as furniture and building materials are available for purchase and the funds received cover the administration costs of the organization and provides funding to the build program.

“Almost all the materials we bring in are donated,” Van Leeuwen said. “We carry a lot of used stuff, but we also carry a lot of new product.” The local ReStore has new items such as hardware items lighting fixtures and accessories as well as the donated second hand products. 

The local affiliate of Habitat relies on the Prince Albert community to support their work and donations of unwanted articles to the ReStore is a fantastic way to support their cause.

Another popular fundraising venture the organization does locally is the Playhouse Lottery. Tickets are currently on sale for the for one of Two playhouses offered can be purchased at the ReStore. Cost of a ticket is $10.00 and, the playhouses are on display at the ReStore. The draw will be made in July!   

Those who wish to volunteer their time with Habitat for Humanity, or donate materials to the Restore can visit their location at 911 Marquis Road, or call 1-306-764-4662.

Visit the website http://www.habitatpa.ca/  

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