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EDITORIAL

Worthy new housing project offers a hand up

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Habitat for Humanity is broadening the scope of its mission.

The faith-based nonprofit Habitat for Humanity has been uplifting lives in Fort Wayne for 26 years, one home at a time – 167 of them so far, scattered here and there in various neighborhoods, mostly in the southeast quadrant. Now, it is embarking on a much more ambitious and very worthy endeavor that will change the focus of its mission from building houses to building communities.

The nonprofit broke ground this week on Fuller's Landing, a 120-home subdivision on the northwest side, just west of Raven's Cove subdivision on Cook Road. Construction on a model home will begin in September, and the homes, which will be built for $60,000 to $65,000, will go up over the next five to seven years. Six families have already been selected for the application and training process.

Habitat for Humanity capably demonstrates two things we should never forget about charity:

It can be accomplished without government. Habitat for Humanity is a private organization that raises its own money and relies on volunteer labor, donated materials and the sweat equity of the recipients of its homes. It is a Christian ministry but represents the best of ecumenism. Its volunteers come from every religious faith. Founder Millard Fuller (hence the subdivision's name) called it the “theology of the hammer.” Whatever differences among faiths, he said, “we can all agree on the idea of building homes with God's people in need.”

It can be done the right way, to offer a hand up in a way that encourages self-help instead of a handout that creates dependency. Families who qualify for Habitat for Humanity homes are economically stressed but employed. In addition to paying mortgages, they are required to contribute 300 hours of service, half of it on construction work for their own or other houses. They also have to take classes on such things as money management and home maintenance. Because they are invested in their homes, they are less likely to fail.

Fuller's Landing represents a challenging effort for the ministry and a blessing for Fort Wayne. Habitat for Humanity homes have improved neighborhoods (and the charity often pays for sprucing up nearby homes as well). The subdivision should add vigor to a whole area of town.

And here is something to think about: Children who grow up in stable homes instead of having to move from one rental to another are 25 percent more likely to graduate from high school and twice as likely to get post-secondary education – boom, cycle broken!

God's work indeed.