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Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that helps provide affordable housing to low-income workers, seniors, veterans and families, by providing what they call “a hand up, not a hand out,” according to Habitat for Humanity of Garland County’s Courtney Post.
Through 16 organizations across the state, Habitat helps families by allowing them to reduce their debt, give children and families safer places to live and encourage educational opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be open to them.
Photo via HFHI/Will Crocker
The organization Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller and was inspired by Koinonia Farm, an interracial Christian community near Americus, Georgia, founded by Clarence Jordan in 1942.
The idea was that people who needed shelter could help build simple, decent homes along with volunteers, and the first sites were laid out a Koinonia in 1968. In 1973, the Fullers moved to Zaire and started a home building program there.
Habitat has long been associated with former president Jimmy Carter, who, along with his wife, took his first Habitat work trip in 1984 in New York City.
Since the organization’s founding, more than 1,400 local affiliates have been founded across the United States, as well as 70 national organizations around the world, which have helped 6.8 million people in need to improve their living conditions.
There are 16 local chapters of Habitat for Humanity in Arkansas, as well as nine ReStores, where building materials, furniture, appliances and other items are sold at discounted prices to benefit local Habitat chapters.
ReStores are located in Benton, Bentonville, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Hot Springs Village, Little Rock, North Little Rock and Searcy.
There are campus chapters of Habitat at Arkansas State University, Hendrix College, Bentonville High School, Jonesboro High School and Southside High School in Fort Smith.
People in need of housing apply to be a part of the program. Applicants must be in need of adequate housing and otherwise unable to obtain or pay for improved housing. Decisions are based on the individual’s or family’s income and the percentage of monthly income spent on housing.
Applicants must demonstrate ability to pay a down payment, mortgage payment and pay for insurance and other costs. Partner families also commit to 300 to 350 hours of sweat equity, working either on their own home or another Habitat home or volunteering in some other way.
Habitat makes a big difference in the lives of families, Post said.
“A Habitat house has proven to help people feel safe,” she said. “Before moving into their new homes, 50 percent of partner families were living in existing housing that was considered unsafe, with higher-than-average crime levels and drug activity.
“Requirements to become a Habitat Partner Family include a commitment to a drug-free community. Habitat also requires a background check and ascertains that the family has not participated in serious criminal activity.”
“Having a safer, more stable home environment helps kids, too,” Post said, noting that children do better in school in about 30 percent of Habitat homes thanks to “a renewed sense of self-esteem, a place of their own to focus on schoolwork and a better sleep environment,” among other issues.
Post said the Garland County Chapter, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015, is working on developing an annual fundraiser. She noted they are always looking for volunteers, who can contact Mary Christians at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Habitat for Humanity of Central Arkansas is hosting a bowling tournament March 11 at Professor Bowl in Little Rock at 2:30 p.m.
Interested people can also volunteer at local build sites, such as the multifamily project for which ground was just broken in Fayetteville.
Seek out your local chapter (see below) for more information on how you can give of your time. It’s not just about swinging hammers; people are also needed to deliver meals, do office work and volunteer in the ReStores. You can also donate old furniture, appliances and materials from home improvement projects to a ReStore.
Arkansas Valley (Fort Smith)
Benton County (Bentonville)
Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Faulkner County (Conway)
Garland County (Hot Springs)
Independence County (Batesville)
Jefferson County (Pine Bluff)
Ouachita County (Camden)
Phillips County (Helena)
Pope County (Russellville)
Saline County (Benton)
Washington County (Fayetteville)
White County (Searcy)
OnlyinArk wants to shine a spotlight on nonprofits doing great work for Arkansas and Arkansans in this monthly series. Work for a nonprofit or have a nonprofit you’d love to see featured? Contact Sarah at email@example.com.
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