CHANGING LIVES

The issue: Habitat for Humanity.

Our Opinion: A bright light during bleak times.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines affordable as spending 30% of household income on housing-related expenses. Regrettably, a majority of hard-working, low income Americans cannot afford decent housing.

With an affordable home an illusion for many low income families, the Christian housing ministry Habitat for Humanity was formed in 1976 in Americus, Georgia, dedicated to the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live. Today, Habitat is in all 50 states, more than 70 countries, and has helped more than 29 million afford the dream of owning a decent home.

Locally, Habitat for Humanity of Citrus County was formed in 1993 by a group of county residents not only dedicated to building dreams, but also to investing in families. With community support and partner families, it has gone from building one home per year during its first 10 years to 20 homes annually.

Given Citrus County’s dearth of affordable housing, Habitat has been a bright light for the county’s low income residents who dream of home ownership. Despite the bleak times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Habitat’s bright light shined radiantly last month when it celebrated the milestone of handing the keys for its 200th home to Eugenia Wilkins, a divorced mother with a young daughter.

Wilkins personifies Habitat’s investment in families that changes lives. After two years as a Habitat partner and 500 sweat equity hours that included home ownership courses, working in Habitat’s thrift stores, and helping out on the job site, she and her daughter have an affordable home to call their own.

Keeping its steady-eyed focus on building dreams and investing in families, Habitat’s celebration of its 200th home was not the culmination of its vision, but the launching of a brighter future for the county’s low income families.

Twenty-eight families working toward their dream of home ownership are already on its approved waiting list for homes to be built in the next fiscal year that began this month. And, despite being put on temporary hold by the pandemic, Habitat’s ambitious plan to construct 500 affordable homes in Citrus Springs is poised to proceed when conditions stabilize.

Nonetheless, because of the pandemic causing a two-month shutdown of its thrift stores, diminished donations and fewer volunteers, our local Habitat needs the generous support of our community to keep its bright light shining more than ever.

With Habitat’s mission one of the purest, county residents are urged to do their part by shopping at its two thrift stores, making donations no matter how small, and working a few hours a week as a construction volunteer.

By investing in families, Habitat is not only helping to attain home ownership for those who dream, but also the building of a stronger community for the benefit of all Citrus County residents.