You’ve seen them on construction sites donning hard hats while hammering, painting, pouring concrete and anything else involved in raising a house. It’s easy to tell that most aren’t construction workers, but they give their all for this labor of love. They are home-owners-to-be and volunteers all working beside the professionals of Habitat for Humanity. Since its founding in 1981, Habitat for Humanity St. Tammany West has addressed the need for affordable housing by building and selling 275 new homes to low-income families.
Habitat builds houses in partnership with families who qualify based on three criteria: need, willingness to partner with Habitat and an ability to repay a no-interest mortgage. The dedication of everyone involved, from homeowner, to staff, to volunteers, makes it all happen. Habitat for Humanity works in good faith with people who often are at risk in society, knowing that owning a home can be an important step toward helping them break the cycle of poverty.
Because of Habitat’s no-profit, no-interest loans, and because houses are built principally by volunteers, mortgage payments can be kept low for low-income families unable to obtain conventional financing. Homeowners complete 60 hours of homeownership education classes and are required to invest an average of 300 hours of sweat equity – time spent building their own home or volunteering at the Habitat ReStore.
What do these opportunities mean to the veterans, low-wage workers and people in need who receive them? Jonay Brumfield says it means the world to her. “My children and I live with my parents, which I’m grateful for – but they don’t have their own room. Now that they’re 13 and 10, it’s time to give them their own space. I don’t want to rent, and even though I work two jobs, it’s hard to save for a down payment.”
Brumfield says home ownership means independence for her, and that actually helping build the house makes it even more rewarding. “Habitat helped me, but I still had to be determined to see it through. My blood, sweat and tears went into this, but now it’s mine and I’m not going anywhere. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Habitat STW also relies heavily on community volunteers. One ongoing program saw its volunteers band together in December to begin framing a house for Sharon Thornhill, a single grandmother raising two girls. Women Build 2019 fueled by Chevron has provided volunteers and raised funds to help build two Habitat homes in St. Tammany. Women Build encourages women volunteers, without excluding men, to further the mission of Habitat STW and improve the lives of local families. In 2019, over 400 volunteers contributed over 2,000 hours of service, and nearly $200,000 were raised creating dynamic change in the community through Women Build for Habitat STW.
Habitat for Humanity St. Tammany West is located at 1400 North Lane in Mandeville. For more information, call 985-893-3172 or visit habitatstw.org.