What happens when “corporate CEOs and their staffs, government leaders, faith groups, community groups and ordinary people like you and me” put our muscles into action?
A Habitat for Humanity worksite is born.
Habitat for Humanity- New York City is Charity Change’s first featured charity of the year! This week, Josh Lockwood, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity - New York City, gave me some insight on the organization and its mission for change in New York City.
Josh explained that “Habitat-NYC has taken a rural, volunteer homebuilding model and applied it to a dynamic, high-density urban environment. Most importantly, our organization provides the opportunity for low-income families living in overcrowded and dangerous circumstances to forever change the trajectory of their lives, by building their own homes, and by becoming first-time homebuyers.”
While many people may think of Habitat-NYC as an organization that builds homes for low-income families locally, Habitat-NYC also works with Habitat for Humanity International on a variety of projects to apply this rural homebuilding model in a high-density environment to various situations.
About four years ago, I had the opportunity to experience the “rural, volunteer homebuilding model… [in a] high-density urban environment” when I participated in an all-night Habitat build in Rockefeller Center for victims of Katrina.
The all-night build consisted of New Yorkers building the frames of houses which were then disassembled into large pieces and loaded onto trucks, driven to New Orleans to be reassembled, and finally inhabited by individuals devastated by Katrina.
It seemed to me that this event was the epitome of Habitat’s “change” it sees in the world. Through this building process, Americans from around the country were able to connect with each other in an intimate way even though they have yet to meet. As the sound of hammers banging nails into wood planks reverberated throughout the night on Rockefeller Plaza, volunteer builders would write messages on the frames of the houses: “God Bless You,” “Welcome Home,” “NYC Loves You.” These messages would be read by the new homeowners and volunteer builders in New Orleans as the houses were reassembled at their final destination.
Not only does Habitat-NYC face fundraising challenges to maintain its capabilities to physically build housing for low-income New Yorkers, but, as Josh explains, they “also face the challenge of educating policymakers and the general public about the life-changing merits of homeownership for low-income New Yorkers. There is no better way for working families to move out of poverty, and no better way to stabilize distressed neighborhoods than to have passionate new homebuyers invest in local property, schools, and institutions.”
Habitat for Humanity is probably well-known for the variety of people that can be found on a housing build work site at any time. “It brings people from all walks of life together to work for common good. In our new global world, our “neighborhood” includes our local communities, towns and cities and people from every continent. Working side-by-side with families, we all work together to transform families and communities.”
While there are endless stories of the lives that Habitat has touched, one particular family stands out in Josh’s mind as he recounted the story of the Ansahs. The Ansahs first approached Habitat-NYC in “a letter saying, "My wife and I live in a run-down one-bedroom apartment, and my wife is about to have quadruplets. Can you help us?" Through the help of Habitat-NYC, the Ansahs now live in “a 3-bedroom condominium that they helped to build in the South Bronx.”
Josh said that he is ”continually blown away by the work ethic and perseverance of our family partner homebuyers. These are folks leading families, holding down full-time jobs, going to school at night, taking care of elderly parents, but they still find time to build their new green homes on the weekends, and they have the vision to see a better life for their children. Somehow, they make the time to build their homes, take the requisite financial literacy classes, and take a step toward a better life.”
Please visit habitatnyc.org or habitat.org to learn more about Habitat-NYC and Habitat International.
Thanks, Josh, for an insider’s view on Habitat-NYC!
(Habitat-NYC is an independent affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International and builds homes in the five boroughs of NYC for individuals in need.)