Habitat for Humanity members want to eliminate
poverty housing and homelessness worldwide. They also strive to prompt
others to take action in their cause. The Ozaukee County Chapter of
the organization is just barely a year old, so they have only two
goals for the upcoming year, but they are ambitious ones to build
the chapters first home and to raise $60,000.
The groups members face a number of challenges
achieving these goals. One of the primary obstacles is to overcome the
"we dont have poor people here" belief that they say
seems to exist in this area.
"In certain parts of our county, there is no
need," says Dan OConnor, the chair of the fund-raising/PR
committee. "Those residents may not have been exposed to areas
where there is a real need."
OConnors personal Habitat experience, from
working on a project in Sheboygan County, helps illustrate that there
is need in this area. "We built a home in Random Lake for a woman
who has eight children. At the time of construction, the family was
living in a trailer in Fredonia in Ozaukee County."
The price of land in the area has created a
significant quandary for the group. Says Andy Weber, the site
selection/construction committee chair, "Were scouring maps to
find a suitable property (for the first Habitat home), but everything
here is outside the norms. Prices are out of the realm of Milwaukee
and Sheboygan property."
The group is investigating potential locations in
Belgium, Saukville and Port Washington. Remodeling is an option, but
the construction foreman says Habitat history shows that process can
often create more problems than it solves.
Another factor the organization faces is that zoning
regulations within communities often dont allow homes as small as
the 1,200-square-foot Habitat projects. The houses are also
constructed without a garage since, Weber explains, "Habitat
says, We house people, not cars even though in Wisconsin, we
wish we could consider a garage a necessity."
He notes that Habitat International regulates
everything about the structure from materials used down to the number
of bedrooms, which is based on the number of children in the family
and their sexes. Homes in the U.S. are one-floor, ranch homes with
vinyl siding. "They are nice, comfortable homes with decent
space," Weber remarks.
Thanks to a donation of $150,000 in windows from
contractors Colby and Colby, the Ozaukee property will have
"windows galore." The windows that are not used in the house
will be sold to area builders to add funds to the Habitat treasury.
Additionally, Cliff Bergen and Associates have donated all of the
plumbing/heating equipment and services for the home-to-be.
While the construction work is being pondered, the
three other committees in the Ozaukee County Habitat chapter are
working on their particular duties.
OConnor and fellow PR committee members have been
speaking to churches and civic groups, such as the Rotary, Optimist
and Lions clubs, to share the Habitats mission and goals. The group
has been quite pleased that attendees are receptive and enthusiastic
about the project.
Several fund-raising activities have already taken
place and about $10,000 is already in the bank account from those
endeavors and other cash donations. A year-long raffle that will be
featured at numerous Ozaukee County events throughout 2002 will add to
that figure. A Harley- Davidson motorcycle is one of the raffle
is a tough committee," the chairperson remarks. "We deal
with the human aspect of the project. We look at all the applications
to make sure that they all fit the Habitat criteria and then we have
to pick which family can best fit the program." She says they
wish they could build homes for all the candidates.
The first determining factor in selecting the
recipient family is need. Candidates must have current housing that is
not adequate. An additional qualifier is more than half of the family
gross income going to rent or house payments. Family income cannot
exceed federal poverty guidelines, which in 2001 was $26,475 for a
family of four.
The ability to pay all of the costs related to home
ownership and family living monthly mortgage payment, taxes,
insurance and all family expenses, including food, clothing and health
care is the second factor in selection process. Homes are not
given to the families; they must be purchased from Habitat. However,
the participants are given a no-interest loan on the property. Owners
are also responsible for the upkeep and repair of the homes.
The final criterion is a willingness of the
potential participants to work with the Habitat program. In order to
be considered, families must complete 500 volunteer hours, called
"sweat equity," before they can become homeowners.
It takes a lot of hands to get all the work
accomplished. Emily Jacobs and the volunteer committee locate those
workers. "We have some volunteers on board who already have their
hammers in their pockets," she laughs.
The construction crew can always use additional
workers. "The great thing about this is that no matter what your
level of ability is (with regard to construction skills), there is a
place for you," Jacobs says.
The Habitat office is located in the First
Congregational Church in Port Washington, next to the high school. The
office space, as well as the groups monthly meeting space, is
donated by the church and is a wonderful cost-saver, Jacobs notes.
And the experience? "Its incredible,"
Jacobs comments, "You just cant explain the feeling. I worked
on projects during spring break from college, but I never got to see
those houses completed. Im so looking forward to being with this
one until the end."
For more information about Habitat for Humanity in
Ozaukee County, call (262) 284-6880 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.