For three and a half years, Demara Albert’s name was on a list with 17 other candidates who wanted to become homeowners through Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County. Although Habitat temporarily suspended its home-building projects due to the state budget impasse, a collaboration between three local nonprofits might still make Albert’s dream come true on Aug. 1.
Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County is a volunteer-driven nonprofit that builds affordable housing for people in need. Typically, Habitat builds homes for families who do not qualify for conventional loans, and recipients purchase the homes with a zero-interest loan from Habitat.
Albert’s house will be a bit different, though. Her house will not be built from the ground up, but rather renovated. The only way Habitat will be able to give the home to Albert is if the organization can raise $80,000 to purchase it from In His Hands Orphans Outreach, a local nonprofit that works to create sustainable communities for orphans in Haiti. As of this week the group had raised $17,175 toward the goal.
“I’m so excited,” Albert said. “But as I get closer to the end of this journey to finally become a homeowner, I’m a little stressed due to funding concerns.”
Due to Illinois’ budget crisis, Habitat’s housing projects were put on hold this fiscal year. The Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association and In His Hands Orphans Outreach offered Habitat a fundraising opportunity that could help a person on their waiting list become a homeowner.
Last year, the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association (EPNIA) purchased a dilapidated two-bedroom duplex located on Eighth Street in the Enos Park neighborhood as part of its mission to restore historic houses in that area.
In January 2016, EPNIA donated the duplex to In His Hands Orphans Outreach, which had worked with the neighborhood group in 2014 to restore a house on Seventh Street.
In His Hands chose to renovate the duplex into a four-bedroom home with two full bathrooms, hoping to sell it on the market for $100,000. It’s that house which Albert and her three children are looking forward to calling their own in August.
Stephanie Barton, project coordinator for In His Hands Orphans Outreach, supports EPNIA’s mission and was looking for an opportunity to help out locally.
“We knew that Habitat for Humanity was at a standstill with their building projects, but we also considered the fact that if Habitat were building a new home, they would have a similar project budget,” Barton said.
Ultimately, In His Hands created a purchase contract with Habitat for Humanity for the house at a price of $80,000. Habitat must raise the money by Aug. 1, or the house will be sold on the open market.
“This project will help uplift the community’s sense of pride and ownership,” Barton said. “The community wants a neighbor like Demara, who is a mentor and volunteers her time to others.”
Colleen Stone, executive director at Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County, says in order for people to become eligible under Habitat’s homeownership program, they must complete a series of classes and volunteer hours. By August, Demara Albert will have completed her volunteer “sweat equity” hours in Habitat’s program.
If Habitat raises the $80,000, Albert will not only be a new homeowner, she will also be equipped with the skills to do her own painting, hang drywall if needed and make smart financial decisions that will enhance her ability to own more property in the future.
“I never realized how much the Enos Park neighborhood had to offer until I went to see the house in May,” Albert said. “My kids and I are looking forward to moving into our new home – hopefully – in August.”
Contact Brittany Hilderbrand at firstname.lastname@example.org.