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Habitat for Humanity International
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Habitat for Humanity International (also "Habitat for Humanity", or just "Habitat") is an international, ecumenical Christian, non-governmental, non-profit organization devoted to building "simple, decent, and affordable" housing. Homes are built using volunteer labor and are sold at no profit, with no interest charged on the mortgage. The organization was founded in 1976 in Americus, Georgia by Millard and Linda Fuller, whose vision grew out of their experiences at Koinonia Farm. The international headquarters located in Americus serves to support and promote the activities of local, independent affiliate chapters, who initiate and manage all construction, mortages, and homeowner selection.

By 2004 Habitat had built 50,000 houses in the U.S. and over 175,000 around the world, with Habitat groups working in over 100 countries. Although headquartered in the United States, two thirds of Habitat construction takes place in other countries. In 2005 Habitat built its 200,000th house, bringing the number of people sheltered in Habitat houses worldwide to one million people.

On August 4th, 2005, Habitat announced the selection of a new Chief Executive Officer for the organization, former president of stores of Musicland and executive pastor of the Edina, Minnesota Christ Presbyterian Church, Jonathan Reckford.

Qualifications for Home Ownership

According to the official website, "Homeowner families are chosen according to their need; their ability to repay the no-profit, no-interest mortgage; and their willingness to work in partnership with Habitat. Habitat for Humanity does not discriminate according to race, religion or ethnic group." Independent, local affiliates of Habitat for Humanity International are allowed to interpret these guidelines as is deemed most appropriate for the location of the affiliate.

Homeowners are usually expected to put approximately 500 hours of "sweat equity" into their own or other project homes, although this amount may vary by location and by the number of wage-earning adults in each family.

Mortgage payments from homeowners are deposited into a locally-administered "Fund for Humanity", the proceeds of which go towards future construction. Families partnering with Habitat who receive a home are required to allow the affiliate the right of first refusal, that should they decide to sell their home during the period of their mortage, the affiliate may buy it for no more than the original cost of construction, regardless of any improvements made since.

Building

Habitat's Global Village and Discovery Center in Americus recreates a slum in an effort to educate visitors about the nature of worldwide poverty housing.

Habitat builds simple houses with locally appropriate materials. This could mean concrete block homes in Third World nations or poured concrete-walled homes in hurricane-prone regions of the United States. Chapters of Habitat in more developed countries are strongly encouraged to donate a tithe of ten percent of the money they raise for local housing to the national group for the purpose of building Third World homes. For instance, Habitat New Zealand builds one house in Fiji for each house they build in New Zealand.

Habitat relies on volunteer labor in order to construct simple and affordable homes for its partner families, as well as to build community and civil society in the areas in which it works. Most volunteers are unskilled prior to first working with Habitat, although some professional or retired tradesmen or contractors may donate their services. Many churches sponsor houses and provide a large amount of the volunteers from their congregations. In an act of corporate social responsibility, some corporations provide financial support to the project or donate materials for use in construction. Many politicians and celebrities have volunteered with Habitat, reflecting its profile as a highly regarded charity.

Programs

In addition to ongoing local-level construction, the Habitat International headquarters administers a range of specially focused programs, which may occur once annually or on a continuously ongoing basis.

Operation Home Delivery

Habitat has initiated a special program to help restore housing to the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The effort is focused on getting the local affiliates in these areas back on their feet and prepared to build for their communities. It has also become a catalyst for other organizations, corporations and the government to provide help and support in rebuilding these areas, and has received considerable national media attention.

The program pre-builds housing components in nearby less-affected locations such as Jackson, Mississippi, allowing much of the construction to be accomplished while basic infrastructure is being restored. Pre-constructed components can then be shipped to the affected areas and built at a faster rate. Within two months of the time of the disaster, construction had begun on houses in the Louisiana cities of Covington and Slidell, near New Orleans.

Operation Home Delivery is Habitat for Humanity International's hurricane rebuilding program, Harry Connick Jr., and Branford Marsalis are honorary chairs, and one of the many projects along the Gulf Coast, is the Musicians' Village.

Collegiate Challenge

Habitat for Humanity runs a year-round alternative break program known as Collegiate Challenge for student groups aged 16 and up. Although summer, fall, and winter break trips are available, most participants (primarily college students) go during their spring break. Collegiate Challenge volunteers travel to affiliates throughout the U.S. and participate in week-long build activities at their host's work sites. Over 12,000 volunteers took part in Collegiate Challenge in 2004, making it one of the world's largest alternative break programs; since its inception in 1989, over 100,000 students have participated in Collegiate Challenge.

Global Village Trips

As suggested by the name, Habitat for Humanity International places a strong emphasis on building outside the United States. Its international character dates back even before its formal inception, as founder Millard Fuller received considerable inspiration while on a three-year trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) during which he and his family sought to apply Koinonia principles outside the limits of the small Georgia farm.

Volunteers today can build with Habitat affiliates throughout the world on Global Village Trips. After having gone through training trip leaders organize travel plans with the support of the Americus-headquartered Global Village Department, first formally established in 1988. Participants from all over are then able to register for trips to their destination of choice. Teams generally number between eight and fifteen, with trips usually last between nine to fourteen days.

Home Builders Blitz

A week-long event scheduled for June, 2006, the Home Builders Blitz program aimed to complete more than 500 homes across the United States from June 5th to the 9th. It was particularly targeted at construction volunteers with professional experience.

Jimmy Carter Work Project

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter became involved with Habitat for Humanity in 1984 and has since become its most high-profile proponent. He has been involved in fund-raising and publicity as well as actual home-building, taking part in the annual Jimmy Carter Work Project "blitz build".

The 2006 Jimmy Carter Work Project took place Oct. 30 through Nov. 4 in Lonavala, India. More than 2,000 volunteers from India and abroad joined former President and Mrs. Carter in the construction of 101 homes.

Women Build

Originating in 1991 with a Charlotte, North Carolina home built by an entirely female crew of volunteers, Habitat's Women Build program has the stated aim of empowering women to participate in Habitat's mission and to introduce them to home construction, a traditionally male-dominated field. [2] Habitat volunteers have completed over 350 Women Build homes within the United States.

Habitat ReStore

Habitat ReStores are retail outlets that re-sell building materials donated by large companies, job sites, and individuals. The sale of these building materials in turn supports local Habitat for Humanity affiliates. In the Washington State area, the name "ReStore" was already claimed, and the local Habitat associations created "Builder's Bargains".

Who Says You Can't Go Home

The video for rock band Bon Jovi's song "Who Says You Can't Go Home" features Habitat for Humanity volunteers as well as the band building homes as part of Habitat for Humanity in Bon Jovi's native New Jersey. It reflects Jon Bon Jovi's dedication to the organization, and highlights the importance of community unity, faith, and involvement.

Criticism

Although Habitat enjoys high name recognition and regard as a charity, it has also been the subject of criticism. Some observers have questioned the cost-effectiveness of Habitat building projects, alleging that sale prices rarely match the cost of construction.[citation needed]

Forclosures on Habitat houses have been very low; 2%, according to official figures. Most American Habitat affiliates perform credit checks on applicants before partnering with them for the construction of a home, and families are required to show an ability to pay for their home in addition to the need for housing. With these requirements, homeless and very low income families may fail to qualify for a Habitat home, causing some critics to allege that Habitat misrepresents the nature of its work by parterning with families that might be considered closer to "middle income".

Ousting of the founder

Habitat's founder, Millard Fuller, and his wife were fired by the Habitat board of directors on January 31, 2005, after he was accused of "suggestive comments and inappropriate touching" towards a female employee during a ride to the Atlanta airport in 2003. HFH now says there was insufficient evidence to corroborate the complaint and it now appears that the firing was due to a change in corporate culture [4]. Prior to Fuller's termination, attempts were made by former President Jimmy Carter to broker an agreement that would allow Fuller to retire with his $79,000 salary intact; when Fuller was found to have violated the non-disclosure portion of this agreement, he was subsequently fired. In response to his dismissal from the project he founded, Fuller has established The Fuller Center for Housing, which aims to work directly with local Habitat affiliates and other organizations, without involving the international headquarters.

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