Habitat bucking housing trend

Monday, August 4, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Local members of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans worked on a Habitat for Humanity house Saturday on Good Hope Street. The house should be completed within two months.

Cape Girardeau's Habitat for Humanity volunteers hope to achieve in five years what previously took 25 years to do.

Their mission may seem impossible, but Cape Area Habitat for Humanity believes a goal of building 25 homes in Cape Girardeau and other nearby communities by 2011 is achievable. Before 2007, the organization had built an average of one house per year.

In 2007, the first year of its goal to build 25 homes in five years, Cape Area Habitat volunteers completed four homes in Cape Girardeau, a house in Sikeston, Mo., and another home in Advance, Mo. Robin Cole, chairman of the Cape Area Habitat for Humanity development committee, expects that number to be surpassed this year.

In addition to five homes scheduled for construction in Cape Girardeau, homes also are planned in Sikeston, Advance and Perryville, Mo. The organization also is searching for another site in Jackson.

Thomas M. Meyer, president of the Cape Area Habitat for Humanity board, said the need has never been greater for their cause.

He believes their efforts are bucking the national and local trend.

During the first six months of 2008, city officials issued 24 building permits for single-family homes. That compares to 53 for the first six months in 2007. Of the permits issued in 2008 for properties in Cape Girardeau, three have been issued to Cape Area Habitat.

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Perry Guebert talked with Renetha Burton, who is providing "sweat equity" by helping to build her house through Habitat for Humanity.

"Recession or no recession, the housing needs of the local Habitat-qualifying families have never been more urgent," Meyer said. "Now is not the time for Habitat to become timid and retreat from our Christian mission."

Cole said the organization's success is due in part to the dedication of its volunteer base. The volunteers raise funds and help the owners construct the homes, and area businesses donate materials and more. Buchheit Inc., which has offices in Jackson and Perryville, has donated half of the needed materials and land for the construction of six homes.

Cole said Buchheit's donation, combined with countless others, will help Habitat achieve its 2008 goal.

"Fundraising and volunteer raising are moving ahead briskly in the communities, and once the new resources are obtained there, three new Habitat houses will be started by these satellites," said Cole, referring to locations in Sikeston, Advance and Perryville.

To qualify for a Habitat home, applicants must demonstrate the need to move out of overcrowded, temporary or substandard housing and have a steady source of income that meets a certain level. Homeowners and their immediate family must complete 500 total "sweat equity" hours of construction on their home, as well as other homes.

Once completed, the homeowners' 20-year, interest-free monthly mortgage payments are recycled into the Revolving Fund for Humanity, which is used to build more houses.

Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1 million people in more than 3,000 communities with their own homes. The organization was founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda.

Locally, Christy Young is one past recipient of a Habitat home. Young moved into her four-bedroom Cape Girardeau home in 2005.

Young expressed gratitude for the sacrifice of volunteers who worked on her home.

"It's a peace of mind," Young said. "I know my children have a decent place to live and a great environment to grow up in."

Young called the experience addictive. Three years after moving into the home, she still assists the local Habitat chapter with projects such as selecting Habitat applicants.

"This is such a rewarding organization," Young said. "We aren't continuing to help out because we want the attention from others. We are wanting to give back to an organization that gave so much to me and my family."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

On the Net

* capeareahabitat.org/

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