Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International (HFH), also known as Habitat for Humanity International is a non-profit, international, non-governmental organization dedicated to constructing simple and affordable housing. The organization's headquarters is located in Americus, Georgia. Additionally, there are five international offices throughout the world in Pretoria, South Africa, Bangkok, Thailand, Bratislava, Slovakia, and San Jose, Costa Rica. Habitat offices on the community level partner with HFH to establish independent non-profit affiliates responsible for coordinating all of the construction aspects from fund raising to offering mortgage services.
HFH strives to eradicate homelessness and poverty housing around the world by constructing adequate shelter. As of 2010, the organization has assisted in building more than 400,000 houses and served over two million individuals around the globe. Construction is possible through monetary and material donations and volunteer labor. In order to successfully complete a construction project, HFH welcomes individuals of diverse backgrounds, and religious affiliation to build decent and affordable homes for families in desperate need of shelter.
While often believed the organization builds homeowners a house as a free project, however, homeowners are expected to pay a down payment and be responsible for making monthly mortgage payments on time. Additionally, homeowners are required to devote hundreds of hours (sweat equity) in constructing their own home or those of others. Although homeowners are expected to be responsible for making scheduled monthly mortgage payments, the organization builds houses at no cost and provides financing with affordable loans.
Families seeking decent shelter are encouraged to apply at local affiliates. A selection committee is ultimately responsible for selecting the people for whom the houses will be constructed. The committee bases its decision on criteria such as need level, ability to repay loans, and willingness to participate in the program. Many participants of HFH establish lasting relationships with others in their communities, while working toward the goal of eliminating homelessness.
Habitat for Humanity (HFH) describes itself as a "Christian housing ministry." The organization strives to eliminate global poverty housing and homelessness by providing adequate and affordable housing a matter of both action and conscience. The organization's principles are founded upon "the conviction that every man, woman, and child should have a decent place to live in dignity and safety." HFH holds to an open door policy that anyone who wishes to be a part of the organization's mission is welcome to participate in building projects.
The fundamental core beliefs of HFH is the desire to provide a tangible expression of God's love through working toward goals to eradicate poverty housing based on three essential theological concepts. The first concept is putting one's faith into action, as Jesus Christ taught everyone to love and care for one another in both words and deeds. The economics of Jesus is the second principle which is defined by responding to human needs without seeking personal gain is rewarded by God a result of efforts put forth. The third principle is the theology of the hammer, which proves that anyone has the ability to use a hammer regardless of religion or ethnic backgrounds.
Homeowners are selected based on a non-discriminatory policy stating that neither religion nor race is a determining factor when making selection decisions. Homeowner recipients are required to put forth 500 hours of "sweat equality" in either construction of personal projects or those of others in need. The number of required hours, however, varies depending on geographical location, homeowners' health conditions and the total wage-earning adults included in the household. HFH's approach to selecting recipients has been criticized as families are required to prove they have the ability to pay for the house while also showing a need for shelter. Numerous affiliates address this issue by only partnering with families falling under regional poverty levels set by the government. Recipients are also subject to a criminal background and credit check.
Though Habitat for Humanity was officially formed in 1976, its roots were laid in 1942 with the formation of Koinonia Farm, in Sumter County, Georgia. Clarence and Florence Jordan along with Martin and Mabel England formed Koinonia with the idea that people were equal regardless of their race. Working the farmland, the residents raised and sold produce to survive. In the mid 1950s local business owners boycotted products from Koinonia and the Jordan's were excommunicated from the Southern Baptist Church for their views on racial equality. Violence ensued and when assistance was requested from the Federal Government, the matter was passed to the Governor of Georgia who ordered an investigation into Koinonia on the basis of Communist activity.
Millard and Linda Fuller visited Koinonia in the mid 1960s and later formed the Fund for Humanity, an organization that built homes for people in need. By building homes and selling them to the poor and needy, at no profit and collecting no interest, the fund was able help many families afford homes where they would otherwise be stuck renting.
In 1976 the Fullers held a meeting with a group of supporters. During this meeting HFH was formed on the idea that the poor didn't need a handout, but instead capital to build with, HFH began building homes for those in need. In 1984 HFH came into the spotlight among American charitable organizations. With Former President Jimmy Carter helping to build homes in the New York area, national attention was raised.
In January 31, 2005, negative attention was generated by HFH. After accusations of sexual harassment, Millard and Linda Fuller were dismissed from the organization when some members felt that it was time of a change in corporate politics.
From its humble beginnings, HFH has evolved into a charitable non-profit organization building homes for millions of impoverished families from around the globe. It continues its endeavors in many different countries, all the while standing firm to the principle that every person deserves a decent home.
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