“We may disagree on all sorts of things. But thank God, we can agree on a nail and the use of a hammer as an instrument to manifest God’s love.”
–Millard Fuller, Founder of Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to the elimination of homelessness and poverty housing from the world. Founded on the belief that all people deserve a decent and affordable place to live in dignity and safety, Habitat pursues its vision to make decent, affordable shelter a matter of conscience and action.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical housing ministry that works in partnership with people in need to build and renovate homes, which are then sold to Habitat’s partner families at no profit and with no interest charged. Partner families invest 350 hours of their own sweat equity into construction of their homes and the homes of others. Their mortgage payments go into a revolving “Fund for Humanity” which is used to fund the construction of more houses in the La Crosse community.
Habitat for Humanity also has a home repair program called A Brush With Kindness program serving low-income homeowners who struggle to maintain the exterior of their homes. The program is a holistic approach to providing affordable housing and assisting communities as well as families. A Brush with Kindness ensures that families live in safe and well-maintained homes. The program is designed to revitalize the appearance of the neighborhood, encourage connections within the community, and most importantly, help preserve affordable housing stock.
Founded locally in 1992, Habitat for Humanity-La Crosse Area is an independently run affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Each year we build 3-5 Habitat homes in the La Crosse area, and to date we have built or rehabbed over 30 homes, providing decent shelter for over 200 people.
The American Dream of safe, affordable, decent housing is out of reach of thousands in the La Crosse area. The people that Habitat for Humanity serves are individuals and families who are currently living in substandard housing: unsafe, unsound, overcrowded, or too expensive, and they are not able to qualify for a conventional mortgage. They earn 30-60% of the county median income as established by HUD. They are the working poor.
By providing a family with an opportunity to purchase their own home and removing them from poverty housing, Habitat for Humanity is offering a hand up, not a hand out.
How does Habitat work?
Habitat is not a give-away program. Families who could not otherwise enjoy the benefits of homeownership invest 350 hours of their own labor (“sweat equity”) in building their Habitat home. In return, these first-time homeowners receive a no-down payment, no-interest mortgage. Their monthly mortgage payments go into a local “fund for Humanity” which is used to build more Habitat homes.
How are the partner families selected?
There are four criteria to becoming a Habitat homeowner:
- The need for decent, affordable housing.
- Willingness to partner with Habitat for Humanity-La Crosse Area to build a home, attend credit counseling classes, and volunteer in other ways for Habitat.
- The ability to repay a zero-interest mortgage.
- Residency in the La Crosse area.
Habitat for Humanity–La Crosse Area conducts Homeowner Expos once or twice per year, at which time applications are distributed. The Family Selection Committee then selects homeowners based on the above criteria.
Habitat for Humanity-La Crosse Area is a member of the La Crosse Area Fair Housing Partnership and the La Crosse County Housing Commission.
Race, marital status, family size, and religion are not factors in choosing the families with which we partner.
What does a Habitat house cost?
The zero-interest mortgages assumed by Habitat homeowners are approximately $90,000, reflecting purchase of the land, development, and construction costs. The average monthly expense is about $500, which includes the mortgage payment, property taxes, and insurance. The mortgage is paid to Habitat for Humanity and is used to building more Habitat homes here in the La Crosse area.
Habitat for Humanity–La Crosse Area builds single-family homes. We obtain vacant housing or vacant lots and are able to keep the home cost affordable through extensive volunteer labor, in-kind donations, and pro-bono services.
What exactly does it mean that Habitat is a Christian organization?
As a Christian ministry, Habitat for Humanity puts into practice the teachings of Jesus. He taught his followers by word and example to meet the needs of those who lacked the most basic necessities of human life: food and drink, clothing, shelter, companionship. He also taught and modeled a vision of community based on inclusion, mutual respect, and compassion for one’s fellow human beings. Reaching out to those who were marginalized, He called forth their inherent goodness, dignity, and human potential. Habitat for Humanity strives to do the same as it partners with people in need of decent housing.
I want to volunteer with Habitat but am not a Christian. Will I still be welcomed?
Yes! You don’t have to be a Christian to be involved with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is an inclusive, non-proselytizing, non-doctrinal organization.
We welcome and encourage the participation of all people—regardless of their belief systems—who identify with our mission and want to partner with us. Our aim is not to convert non-Christians or advance specific doctrines, but to build decent homes in partnership with people who need them.
Must a potential Habitat homeowner be Christian?
No. Habitat for Humanity does not discriminate on the basis of faith, or on any other basis, in the selection of partner families. Habitat for Humanity envisions a world with no shacks, where every human being has at least a simple, decent place to live. This includes not just Christians, but all humanity.