By Lethbridge Herald on June 5, 2020.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit housing organization that works with local communities across over 70 countries around the world. In Lethbridge, Habitat for Humanity continues to provide for local families in need, as they work to finish a home for a deserving family before the end of summer.
Families and individuals in need of a decent and affordable housing can apply through their local Habitat for Humanity as they look through criteria for a deserving candidate. Currently in Lethbridge, a house is being built to support a seven-member family from Sudan who was stuck in a refugee camp for almost a decade.
“The motto is to provide a hand up, not a handout,” says Dan Shapiro, chairman of the board, Habitat for Humanity Lethbridge. “We find families who apply and are in desperate need of decent housing. Given their family size and where they live and they enter into a mortgage with our organization for 25 years to pay off the house, so it’s not free, and it is an opportunity to provide people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a home to be able to get into the home ownership game.”
Families who qualify don’t get a free ride for a new house, as they have to put in hundreds of hours into not only the construction of the house, but also to local organizations in the community as a form of a down payment for the house.
“The families have to put in 500 hours of sweat equity, 250 hours of it minimum has to be on the build, and we allow them to work at other community organizations to be able to make up their 500 hours, and they have a space of two years to complete their sweat equity and at that point that is their form of a down payment,” says Shapiro. “We are able to self-fund because of some good business decisions and prudent spending. We get some funding from the province and from the City, there are a number of people who make donations to Habitat Lethbridge which, of course, we use entirely for the build.”
Shapiro says the impact a single home has on a family is huge, from the emotional and psychological perspective, but it also has a rippling effect of positivity throughout the community.
“The statistics are staggering by those that do this kind of research. It has shown that the crime rate diminishes dramatically, the social benefit is huge,” says Shapiro. “We provide to all of the sub trades that work on the house an income, so we are contributing to the economy; we are adding taxpayers to the municipal tax base and allowing people to have the opportunity of improving their home and the ability to be able to put a picture on the wall and knowing that you don’t have to take it off. It is all emotional and psychological and the families we’ve had are certainly grateful.”
Although Shapiro sits on the board for Lethbridge Habitat for Humanity, he also spends his time helping the construction of the homes and says there is nothing better than knowing the hard work is going to improve the overall life of the family.
“I love the satisfaction of knowing that I had a small part in making life a little bit better for a family,” says Shapiro. “You can’t measure it in dollars and cents, you measure it with your heart and with your mind, and it just makes such a difference to these people, especially if they have had a tough time in life up until now.”
As construction crews, along with the family and other dedicated volunteers continue to work through the different phases of the build, the family which has persevered through struggles for freedom will have a place to call home in the coming months.
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