Outreach in the U.S.
IOCC Helps Single Working Moms
|Volume 12, No. 2
Realize Dream of Homeownership
Covington, Louisiana At 43, tan, and muscular, a woman named Michelle bounds up a ladder and uses her shoulder to hoist a “truss,” a large wooden structure that will secure the roof of a new home. When she ducks as the team below her slides the truss into place, Michelle, a New Orleans native, reminds you of a pioneer woman. In fact, she is one. For the first time in her life, she will own a home, something that this landscape gardener and single mother never thought was possible.
Michelle is working at a Habitat for Humanity work site, putting in the 300 hours of sweat equity required towards the acquisition of her own house. Her American dream is about to come true thanks in part to the hundreds of IOCC volunteers who have toiled in the Louisiana sun since 2006 to build new Habitat homes for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. “The idea of owning my own home for personal security, for personal investment, for my two growing sons – plus one that is affordable and that can withstand a Category 5 hurricane is something I never thought possible,” she said.
In this year’s deepening recession and subprime mortgage meltdown, Michelle’s story is a refreshing change. She’s not alone. Of the 127 families in the St. Tammany Parish area who received Habitat homes since Katrina, 100 are single working mothers. Katrina devastated them, but it also gave them the impossible: first-time home ownership at an affordable price.
Habitat homes are 1,100 - 1,300 square feet with 3-4 bedrooms and are worth approximately $135,000 in the St. Tammany market, although they cost only $89,000 to build with volunteer labor and are sold to homeowners for $75,000.
The average Habitat owner has a 20-year, 0% mortgage that requires monthly payments of $420. To qualify for a Habitat home in the St. Tammany area, a family of four can earn no more than $35,800.
The program, however, aims to provide more than a house. As part of their 300 hours of sweat equity, homeowners are required to take classes in personal finance, home repair, landscaping, career skills, and even parenting.
The “Volunteer in the Gulf Coast” program is IOCC’s largest volunteer program. In 2008, IOCC mobilized 204 volunteers from 55 Orthodox parishes to work on Habitat homes in Louisiana. Participants put in over 8,000 volunteer hours, worth a total of $160,000, towards the completion of 50 new homes.