Habitat for Humanity: Helping Hands for Happy Homes

“We offer a hand up, not a hand out.”

This slogan embodies the mission of Habitat for Humanity. Founded internationally in 1976 and beginning operations in Canada in 1985, Habitat for Humanity has built over 2000 homes across the country.

The Peterborough and Kawartha Region has seen 18 new homes built for families in need since 2002, with eight more planned for this year and next.

The aim of Habitat for Humanity is to help families break the cycle of renting. Applicants typically spend fifty to seventy-five percent of their income on housing and are unable to purchase their own home. Since many are from families that are third generation or more of renters, Habitat works with prospective owners for at least a full year to help them navigate the waters of home ownership.

In addition to this training, owners are required to put in 500 hours of “sweat equity”. This can include helping on the build site, assisting with fundraising, or otherwise giving their time to help Habitat for Humanity. The sweat equity ensures that the owners are dedicated and serious, and it also fosters a sense of pride of ownership as they themselves have put considerable time and effort into their home.

The most visible aspect of Habitat for Humanity is, of course, the build sites where new homes are constructed by teams of volunteers, but in addition to build sites and raising awareness, fundraising is a critical ingredient in Habitat for Humanity’s success. Through the Habitat for Humanity ReStore that sells donated appliances, furniture, and other goods for the home, all of the staffing and operating costs for the Peterborough Habitat for Humanity are covered.

For home builds, approximately $125,000 must be raised for each home. This covers the cost of materials, equipment, and contractors for specialized work such as plumbing and electrical, and this money is raised through private and corporate donations.

As with other charitable and non-profit organizations, promoting awareness and gaining greater exposure are two of the biggest challenges facing Habitat for Humanity. Likewise, there are a number of common questions and myths that surround Habitat for Humanity and its mission:

Why should people who don’t even work get a free house?

All applicants must be gainfully employed for a period of at least three years before being considered for ownership. Habitat strives to help those who are doing their best to help themselves but need a hand up. The homes aren’t free. They are paid for by the owners. Habitat for Humanity provides an interest-free loan that is geared to approximately twenty-five percent of the owners’ monthly income. In the nearly dozen years that Habitat Peterborough has been in operation, not a single loan payment has been missed! This speaks loudly to the pride owners take in owning their homes.

Can they just flip the house and pocket the profits? Owners sign a contract with Habitat for Humanity that prevents them from profiting on the home for a period of time. After 15 years, the owners have full possession and can sell as they see fit.

If I donate money, how do I know it’s being used to help those in need?

One hundred percent of all donations to Habitat Peterborough go directly to local builds. No overhead is skimmed for administration or other costs. All of that is covered by the retail sales at the ReStore. (Which has some great deals, I might add!)

They must have a waiting list a mile long!

Surprisingly, finding people to apply for new builds is one of the challenges facing Habitat for Humanity. Out of 76 invitations sent out for two homes to be built in Lindsay, only 14 people came to the information session and applied. More information on the criteria for Habitat for Humanity candidacy can be found online.

I want to help out, but I don’t have any construction skills.

There is no experience necessary! Of course, experienced builders are an asset on the build site, but there are plenty of jobs that can be done by those who don’t know a trowel from a band saw. All are welcome on build sites, and Habitat is always looking for new volunteers to help with fundraising and other activities. There are always events and ongoing fundraising that volunteers are encouraged to sign up and help out with. If you would like to lend a hand, a great starting place is the website and through Volunteer Hub.

Women Build

This year, Habitat for Humanity is showcasing the home-building talents of Peterborough and Kawartha Region women. At their Young St. location just behind the Memorial Centre, Habitat crews decked in pink to promote women’s involvement are working diligently to build two new homes for local families.

Any women 16 years and older are encouraged to come lend a hand. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never swung a hammer before, there are jobs for all levels of experience. If getting down and dirty on the build site doesn’t suit your fancy or fit your schedule, there are plenty of fundraising opportunities ongoing with special events planned throughout the year.

Check their website for more information. And of course, there is no discrimination so men are welcome as well!

Come show your support for a great organization and lend a helping hand up to those in need of a little boost from the community.