Ross Harrison, board secretary of Flint River Habitat for Humanity, said Habitat is in the business of identifying families, training families and then putting families in a house. Despite careful measures, Harrison said foreclosure is sometimes necessary.
ALBANY, Ga. — During a Tuesday lunch meeting at the Doublegate Country Club, members of the Dougherty County Rotary Club were given an overview of the Flint River Habitat for Humanity and its sources of funding and volunteer support.
Speaking to the group was Ross Harrison, board secretary of the Flint River Habitat affiliate, who began his program with a pre-distributed organizational chart listing other board officers, including Kitty Ashley, president, then moving on toward committees, methods of income, sources of labor and donations and the general purpose of Flint River Habitat. Currently, the organization is without an executive director and business director, Harrison said.
“Mars hired away our best help,” Harrison said. “I guess that happens.”
Harrison said that a significant portion of both the organization’s funding and the materials used in its home building originates with its “re-store” at 717 Pine Ave.
“The re-store will sell anything you bring us and we’ll come and pick it up,” Harrison said. “You never know what you’ll find at the re-store, but most specifically building materials — hammers, nails and trim. Somebody gave us 500 doors, eight feet high. The restore is designed to pay all our administrative costs and overhead, which is bad with the great recession going on.”
According to Harrison, there is a misconception among the public that Habitat gives homes to people. Addressing the point, Harrison said that homes are built from donations and that 500-1,000 hours of “sweat equity” from the recipients and good credit scores are the major considerations for a family’s placement in a Habitat home.
“We’re in the business of identifying families, training families and then putting families in a house. They actually sign a mortgage and pay back a zero-interest loan that runs about 25 years,” Harrison said.
Harrison said that, in spite of precautions, occasionally mortgage payments go unmade.
“Sometimes people don’t pay,” he said. “We work very carefully trying to keep (the family) in that house, but if they don’t pay, then sometimes mean old Habitat actually forecloses. We don’t want to do that often, but we have.”
According to Harrison, home recipients are given special training in dealing with inevitable problems that come up down the road, such as roof leaks or plumbing issues. Residents are also counseled on money management.
“They’ve probably never been in this situation before. You know you’ve got to put a little money away because pretty soon the faucet’s going to leak.”
Harrison shared with Rotary Club members details of Habitat’s “Collegiate Challenge,” which offers various northern schools an opportunity for willing students to come south a few days and help build a house.
“Twin hundred sixty-two students over seven weeks have just got through coming down here,” Harrison said. “They’ve built two homes from the ground up, 85 percent complete. If you’ve never been to Sunny Lane, you can’t miss our houses because they’re the two new ones.”
According to Harrison, when college students aren’t available, Habitat relies on a variety of other volunteers to build the homes. Contractors are employed to execute certain segments of home construction, Harrison said, such as wiring and plumbing, as students and general volunteers are unqualified for the tasks.
Harrison said the city of Albany has been a valuable partner with the Flint River Habitat, providing $100,000 for the current $180,000 “build” on two homes.
“That’s basically grant money,” Harrison said. “They give us the lots and we build the homes.”