By Whitney Green
An estimated $35,000 is needed to finish construction on a Habitat for Humanity home in Springdale for a single mother and her two children.
The charity is weeks away from the goal of moving the family into their new home by November for the holidays and organizers said they hope to raise the remaining money at their annual fundraiser Oct. 8 at the Fayetteville Town Center, said Michelle Davis, resource development manager for Habitat for Humanity of Washington County.
“Our goal for that night is $35,000 to finish the house,” Davis said. “Ticket sales should get us about halfway there and we’re hoping that the silent auction and people’s generosity will get us the whole way.”
Habitat partner family Casey Burd and her children have been waiting two years for their new home.
“The kids are really excited now. We were accepted into the Habitat program about two years ago and have definitely been ready for it to start,” Burd said. “It’s going to make a big difference in our future.”
Burd, her 12-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son are looking forward to having a home where everyone can have his own room for the first time, she said.
“It’s giving me an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had before, to make an investment in my life and in my children’s lives,” Burd said. “There’s stability for my kids to not have to move anymore and when I graduate from school my budget will allow me to have a better safety net for my children.”
As a full-time student, preschool teacher and single mother, Burd has sacrificed a lot to create a better future for her children, she said.
“Casey came to us about two years ago and was one of those people that didn’t want to ask for help, but when she realized that it wasn’t a hand out she was more comfortable with it,” Davis said. “We consider ourselves a hand up not a hand out.”
The Habitat for Humanity partner family logs at least 300 volunteer hours for a single-parent household and a minimum 400 volunteer hours for two parents. The “sweat equity,” as Habitat describes it, includes building homes for other partner families, participating in training meetings, volunteering at events and building their own home, said Judy Davis, family manager for Habitat for Humanity of Washington County.
“Casey has given us a tremendous amount of time,” Judy Davis said. “She’s been a workaholic since starting the program in April .”
Burd has enjoyed working on the construction of her home and thinks it’s important to include her children, she said.
“They come and pick up trash after construction for the day is over,” Burd said. “Just to watch the process has been really big for them.”
This will be the first time for the family to have a home in a safe neighborhood.
“Casey was living in an apartment with two kids sharing a bedroom and told us that she was afraid to let them go outside and play because the neighborhood was so bad,” Davis said.
Support for Habitat houses comes from local donations. Some people and business donate annually or for each house and when the homeowners pay their mortgage the principal goes into a fund that helps build the houses, Davis said.
Eighteen percent of Washington County residents live below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau.
Habitat’s goal is to put people in affordable housing, Davis said. The generally accepted definition of affordability is for a househo9d to pay no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing, according to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.
There is so much poverty in Washington County because “there’s a huge discrepancy in the salaries and the cost of housing and that makes a huge impact on families,” Davis said. “A lot of people in all income brackets in this area are paying more than 30 percent of their income in housing.”
Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered “cost burdened” and might have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care, according to HUD.
“If you’re paying 40 to 50 percent of your income on your housing than it’s harder to buy food and get kids to the doctor,” Davis said. “All that stuff gets pushed to the side if you’re spending all that money on just the house.”
An estimated 12 million rented and owned households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing and a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S., according to HUD.
“It was nice to see Casey open up to the idea that it’s OK to accept help,” Davis said. “Sometimes you need it.”