That said, Habitat for Humanity just bugs me.
Every year my office encourages the staff to spend a day volunteering for HfH and every year a colleague or two asks me if I'm going to join in and build a house. And every year when I politely decline, I'm asked why not. People should really know better than that. It takes incredible restraint for me to keep my opinions to myself, but if you come right out and ask, I'm gonna lay it on you!
So here's the deal. HfH works as follows:
Now, I work my butt off in order to afford my house. I make well thought out decisions on how I'm going to spend my money so that I could afford the down payment to begin with and so that I can continue to pay down my mortgage. I live within my means and deny myself luxuries if they will prevent me from affording the basics.
- Habitat for Humanity builds homes using volunteer labour and donated materials.
- Homes are sold to partner families with no monetary down payment required. However, they must contribute "sweat equity” in the form of 500 volunteer hours.
- Families receive an affordable and sustainable no-interest mortgage, with monthly payments based on 25% to 30% of the family's monthly income.
I know that there are many people out there who have just been bitch slapped by life in ways in which they have absolutely no control. I know some people personally and they don't ask for handouts from anyone - would even be offended if they were offered. Instead they work hard and do whatever they have to in order to make ends meet.
I think my issues with HfH probably go back to the various articles I've seen in the newspaper since I was a teenager. You've probably seen similar stories of people complaining that welfare doesn't provide enough of an income to survive. Meanwhile the photo with the story shows the person in question cigarette in hand and a case of beer in the background. Even as a 15 year old I could see the contradiction there.
On a more personal note, I knew a guy who was on welfare. The only thing that the government asked was that he fill out a weekly form detailing the ways that he tried to find work. Each week he would go to a few places he knew weren't hiring and ask for work. On the off chance that they offered him an application, he would throw it out and leave that one off his list. Then he would go home with a bottle of Jack Daniel's.
I just can't trust that these houses are going to people that truly deserve them or that there aren't better ways to help them out of their problems. Sometimes I feel like we're rewarding bad decisions. I heard of one family who arrived each day to work on their house driving a luxury sedan. Granted I never actually saw this and am taking the word of a friend, but can we say bad priorities??? If you can't afford a mortgage then maybe you should have bought an Accent instead. Then there are the people with multiple children. (This is where I get those horrible looks like I eat babies for breakfast.) In my eyes if you can't afford to feed, clothe and provide proper shelter for children then you shouldn't have had them. Having children is a choice. In this day and age it can rarely even be called an accident. I'm reluctant to draw attention to specific people, but there is a lovely story on the HfH site detailing one woman who had TWO ADDITIONAL children while waiting for her house to be built.
For me it all boils down to that proverb about giving a fish or teaching how to fish. Maybe the money and time could be better spent helping these people get a better education, create resumes, find viable work or learn how to budget their money. (All of which already have existing government programs ready and willing to help.) If they have children, maybe volunteers could spend time doing childcare while the parents take classes or go on interviews. There are many other options that I would support over HfH.
In the end, if you believe that HfH is a wonderful program, by all means put on your work boots and go pound in a nail or two. Just don't invite me to come along.