Everyone deserves a home — that is a fundamental basic human right because, after all, how can we expect those without a roof over their heads to have a better life?
Yet, increasingly, the notion of even having a place to call their own becomes an unattainable goal for people as they live paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make the basic ends meet.
According to a 2016 study by Beacon Economics and Next10, California is the least affordable homeownership state in the United States. Los Angeles County fares even worse. Nearly 60% of Angelenos pay more than 30% of their income towards rent, which increases the financial burden on an already vulnerable community.
It’s not a problem that appears to be going away anytime soon.
But, there are organizations out there making a real difference in helping provide affordable homeownership opportunities.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles is one such non-profit, who work tirelessly every day to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope, raising awareness about the affordable housing crisis and being dedicated to making homeownership possible for low-income families and individuals.
Working with volunteers, families and individuals, corporations, congregations and donors they are able to tackle this important housing issue throughout greater Los Angeles.
“Habitat for Humanity was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller, who developed the concept of ‘partnership housing,’ which centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build decent, affordable houses,’” Erin Rank, President & CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles explains. “The houses would be built at no profit. New homeowners’ house payments would be combined with no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fundraising, which would then be used to build more homes. We provide a hand up, rather than a hand out. Our partner homeowners build their homes, take classes on finance and home repair, and give back through sweat equity and advocacy. Most people think President Jimmy Carter founded Habitat, but actually he and his wife Rosalynn are among our most famous volunteers. They still devote one week a year to build with Habitat somewhere the world.”
Erin became involved with the organization in college and has seen the operation expand — and expand.
“I was working with youth right out of college developing their leadership skills,” she explains. “I wanted to engage them in community service so I brought them to help on a Habitat site. Afterwards, I began volunteering with a small Habitat affiliate in Long Beach. After three years as a volunteer and Board Member, I became the affiliate’s first paid employee. At the time, we operated out of a small room in a church. We relied solely on volunteers to fund and build, and we built 1 house per year back then. I felt it was my calling to serve more families each year throughout Los Angeles. Eventually three Habitat affiliates merged and became Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles. We now serve 75-100 families each year with better housing and thousands more through referrals, affordable home repair, supplies and trainings.”
And, those families are incredibly grateful for the gift of hope they have received.
“Habitat LA turned our family’s hopelessness around, they changed our destiny,” Alex Chanto, Habitat LA Partner Homeowner in Long Beach says. “Now I am a homeowner and I have a place called ‘HOME’ for my family. Habitat for Humanity not only made my lifetime dream come true, it also changed so many things in our lives. I feel I have much more confidence, in short, Habitat LA restored and changed me to become a new person that is happily, bravely moving forward for the rest of my life.”
While Claudia Otis, Habitat LA Partner Homeowner in Long Beach says: “Being a homeowner means everything to me and this journey has allowed me to teach my children that with integrity and hard work anything is possible.”
“Habitat has not only given us the opportunity to become homeowners but has also become an extension of our family and impacted our lives greatly. Not only does it change our present lives but our future. I can’t express how much this has meant to us and our family and how grateful we will always be for this blessing,”adds Angie Medina, Habitat LA Partner Homeowner in Lynwood.
“Partnering with Habitat for Humanity has given our children the opportunity to learn about hard work and having goals to work toward,” says Maria Rendon, Habitat LA Partner Homebuyer in Lynwood
While, Amanda Jordan, Habitat LA Partner Homeowner in Lynwood, adds: “Being a homeowner has been a total dream come true. My three children and I used to share one bedroom in a home with 13 people. We now have our own space with a yard of our own!”
But much more still needs to be done, Erin says.
“One goal is to have a larger training and homebuyer counseling facility to serve more Angelenos with their housing needs,” she explains. “We would also like to expand to provide job training to those interested in working in the construction trades. Further, we would like to expand our social enterprise by adding three more ReStores by the end of 2020.”
For someone that bestows kindness and hope on others every day, for Erin, personally, it means: “Kindness is giving something to someone without the expectation of self-benefit. Our volunteers show amazing kindness when they give their day to help a family they have never met before to build a better future. Hope is the feeling that the future holds safety, stability and opportunity for an individual or family. Our families find hope in Habitat through the knowledge that owning a healthy, stable home will provide them a foundation on which to grow.”
And, she would like us all to give back a little more.
“Encourage others by building their self-esteem, courage and skills to transform their lives and the lives of others,” she says.