Habitat For Humanity makes it possible for the underprivileged to be homeowners


Dan Wolterman, left, an engineer at General Dynamics, shows Willie Vinson how to to put up drywall at a Habitat for Humanity house being built in Lincoln.

Story, photos and video by Alisha Tesfalem, NewsNetNebraska

Rosario Miranda, a mother of three and a Mexican immigrant, never thought she would own a home.

“This is a dream come true,” Miranda said recently as she helped a crew of Habitat for Humanity volunteers work on her new home in Lincoln.

“I am so excited,” she said. “I thank God so many people came and worked at my house.”

Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit Christian organization, builds affordable homes and provides no-interest loans to people in need. The Lancaster County chapter is one of more than 1,700 affiliates in the United States and the world.

When choosing potential homeowners like Miranda, the organization considers a number of criteria, said Michele Williamson of Habitat for Lancaster County.

“They can’t be too low income or too high income because we want them to be able to pay for their homes and be successful homeowners,” she said.

The size of the home Habitat builds depends on the size and dynamics of the chosen family, Williamson said. The selected families typically range from one to eight people individuals. Habitat only builds the houses and does not provide anything outside of that, including furnishings.

The first step Habitat makes in building a new house is purchasing land, which is typically a 50- by 120-foot lot, Williamson said. The lot location depends on the existing ones Habitat has purchased or those donated to the charity. All lots have to be located in a safe neighborhood, she said.

In Lincoln, Habitat chooses six to eight families each year, depending on how much money is donated, Williamson said. Each home takes about five or six months to build, depending on the weather.

The Habitat organization itself is funded by the homeowners who have to pay mortgages monthly and by corporate, individual and foundational donors.

Building houses like Miranda’s is a joy for Habitat’s volunteers.

Rosario Miranda helps paint her future home

“I think my biggest motivation is the children,” said Tom Scott, 83, who has been volunteering for more than 16 years. “I really like to see them have a really nice home something for them to be proud of.”

Willie Vinson, a junior engineering major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says Habitat gives people who are first-time homeowners the opportunity to live with their families at a reasonable cost.

“It makes me feel good to know I have helped to capture something that they will have for a lifetime that will impact their life,” he said. “It’s something I hold dear to my heart.”

The Lincoln chapter runs mainly on volunteers. They are directed by at least one site supervisor at all times every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Williamson said there is an overabundance of volunteers in Lincoln.

“Lincoln is such is such a great city, they come in flocks to volunteer,” she said.

Habitat homeowners also are required to volunteer at least 400 hours to Habitat as a condition of receiving their home. In return, they receive a 30-year, interest-free mortgage.

“They do pay for these homes,” Williamson said. “It not a hand out. It’s a hand up.”

Williamson noted that 14 percent of families in Lincoln live below the poverty level. She wants Lincoln residents to help Habitat fight poverty.

“It takes more than then just muscle,” she said. “It takes awareness and policy change to fight the problem of poverty.”

Video: A Lincoln family talks about how life has changed for them since moving into a Habitat house.

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