By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Habitat for Humanity provides an array of services—from home repairs to financial planning.
“We’ll paint a house, fix a messed up roof, do basic home repairs,” said Charles Moore, president and CEO of Greater Birmingham Habitat for Humanity. “It’s usually for the elderly or disabled, people who usually can’t do the jobs themselves or don’t have the resources. We go in and help them out.”
Those services are part of a program called A Brush of Kindness, which sends volunteers into a community to perform basic repairs; the volunteers are often sent to Habitat through other programs.
Habitat for Humanity volunteers must be at least 14 years old. They also must sign a waiver that is good for a year, so they have the opportunity to volunteer multiple times. They do not need any training or skills in homebuilding.
“We partner with a lot of churches, businesses, and civic groups for the volunteers,” Moore said. “We also have a collegiate program.”
Habitat’s collegiate program gives college and some high school students the opportunity to volunteer to help build houses during their spring, fall, and Christmas breaks.
“Usually, about 400 to 500 students come help,” Moore said.
Homebuilding supplies are often bought locally from suppliers, and amenities in the homes are often donated.
Habitat for Humanity also helps with natural disasters. Following the April 2011 tornadoes, for instance, the organization went into Birmingham’s Pleasant Grove neighborhood and rebuilt homes.
“During natural disasters, we usually get way more volunteers than usual,” Moore said. “It’s the generosity and compassion that people have for these communities that makes the work possible.”
Habitat for Humanity also provides financial planning and budgeting services for home recipients. The houses are financed through Habitat and have zero percent interest.
“That’s a big part of it. They don’t have to go to the bank, they finance through us,” Moore said. “Since we do it at zero percent interest, it helps keep the houses affordable for the families.”
More families are now living debt-free in their homes, Moore said.
“Most of our mortgages are 15- to 20-year mortgages, so a lot of families are now living without the stress of a mortgage,” he said. “On dedication day, I tell families that there are a number of reasons why they’re able to get the keys to their house. They’ve done the financial workshops. The volunteers have come and helped them. But the 700-plus other families who received homes before them also have invested in this home. In turn, the new homeowners are helping the next families.”
If a person wants to sell their Habitat home, they first must pay off all their existing mortgages. Once those are satisfied, they can sell their house.
“We take the mortgage funds to build the next home. Once they pay off the original note, though, they are free to do whatever they choose,” Moore said.
In order to be eligible for a mortgage through Habitat for Humanity, applicants must meet specific requirements. They must show that they need affordable housing and have the ability to repay a monthly mortgage; they also must complete 300 hours of volunteer service, work on the construction of their homes, and participate in required workshops and educational classes. If the requirements are met, Habitat’s Family Selection Committee will review the application. If approved, the prospective homeowners and Habitat Birmingham sign a partnership agreement.
Giving families homes to help them build a better future for themselves is why Habitat exists, Moore said.
“These are families that want the same thing that anybody wants—homes, good communities, and good schools. These families are not looking for a handout, but they do need a hand up. They work hard for their homes, and they deserve them.”
Contact Habitat for Humanity at Habitatbirmingham.org or 205-780-1234.