We Need You on #GivingTuesday
A message from our Executive Director:
#GivingTuesday is less than a week away and if you choose to participate I hope that you will consider Habitat for Humanity.A safe, decent place to lay your head at night is a basic human need. Over 14,000 in Whatcom County will struggle this Thanksgiving to provide for their family, not only this coming Thursday, but every day, because their living conditions are substandard or – equally detrimental – unaffordable.
- The Ortiz’s mortgage payment is based on cost, financed at 0%, and set at no more than 28% of the family’s gross income. This means the family can afford other basics such as food, clothing and health care.
- The affordable payment means there is reduced need to utilize other support social services.
- The affordable payment means that children don’t move from school system to school system due to another rent increase.
- At 0%, every mortgage payment builds 100% equity. It’s like putting the entire amount into a savings account. The stability and ability to weather difficult times is priceless.
- Every mortgage payment helps the next family in need by providing unrestricted cash flow to support Habitat’s mission to eradicate substandard living conditions in Whatcom County. Habitat founder Millard Fuller called this Biblical Economics.
Your gift gives in so many ways and it is needed more than ever. Please click here and make a huge difference in the prospects for this and many other future families in need of housing.
Wishing all a warm, safe and memorable Thanksgiving full of many meaningful moments with family and friends.
John P.C. Moon
Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County
Work Begins in Blaine
It took nearly 4 years of persistent effort, but at the end of last month we finally received a permit to begin building on the Leeside Drive lot we acquired back in 2012. We celebrated Habitat style … by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work!
Building House Number 37
This will be our 37th ground-up build in Whatcom County and we’re partnering with the Ortiz family to make it happen. The Ortiz’s joined our program in December of 2011 and have already put in over the minimum 500 hours of sweat equity before we’ve even broken ground! They were out at the build site this past Saturday working alongside volunteers and staff to clean up the lot and remove debris.
Build with the Ortiz’s
There are many more work parties to come and we’ll need all the hands we can get to help the Ortiz family finish their home in time for the 2017/2018 school year. Please contact Janet Straka at 360.715.9170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up to volunteer with Habitat. This project is led by Women Build volunteers. Habitat welcomes volunteers of all genders.
A Place to Study, Learn and Grow: The Connection Between Housing and Education
Julio Ortiz was a teacher in Guatamala before he immigrated to the U.S. to provide a better life for his family. So he means what he says when he talks about the importance of a good education for his children.
The older two of his four children are in elementary school, and the first thing he says about Rodrigo and Yosmeri is “They’re good students.”
Julio’s wife Juana is a student as well. She’s currently working on improving her English skills through Whatcom Community College’s ESL program. With a baby and a toddler to care for, she has to stay home. But if she is to work at some point in the future, English is key to getting a decent job, so Julio is supportive of Juana’s decision to study. “(Studying English) is the first thing I did when I got here,” he says.
Julio would like to take classes himself to further improve his English, and perhaps pursue the credentials he would need to resume his career as a teacher here. But since he now works 60 hours a week on a berry farm for little more than minimum wage, he has neither the time nor the money to think about his own education. Yet.
In the Habitat home that Julio will soon begin helping to build in Birch Bay for his family, he will have significantly lower monthly housing costs – perhaps low enough that he can afford to think about pursuing his dream of more education and a better career.
Regardless of what plans Julio makes for himself in the future, his children will benefit from finally having adequate room to play and study. The relationship between housing and childrens’ educational success is well-documented. Better health and nutrition, more disposable income for school supplies and extra-curricular activities, a stable environment that allows kids to stay in the same school district, are benefits of safe, decent, affordable housing that can help students succeed in school. And when parents own their home, it gives their kids even more of an edge. Children of homeowners are 25%1 more likely to graduate high school, and 116%2 more likely to finish college than their peers in rental housing.
For Julio Ortiz, those are encouraging statistics.
Blog Post Statistics:
1 & 2: Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio/Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, April 2003. http://www.habitatsa.org/about/benefits.aspx
The challenges of keeping a family healthy in unhealthy housing
As an agricultural worker, Julio Ortiz makes barely enough to support his family. And he only gets paid for the days he works. A few stormy days, or a case of the flu could be a financial disaster. His job doesn’t offer health insurance, and he can’t afford it on his own. If Julio or his wife Juana fall ill, “we get nothing,” he says.
Dan VanDyken is another Habitat partner. He has lived through the type of nightmare that Julio and Juana Ortiz try not to think about. Dan had a long career as a construction tradesman, but when he was diagnosed with advanced Crohn’s Disease and suffered several strokes, he was left unable to work, with a mountain of medical bills to pay. No longer able to make rent, he and his wife and grandson were forced to move into a cabin in Glacier.
The VanDykens’ story is not uncommon for low-income Americans. A study by The Access Project, a program of Third Sector New England affiliated with the Schneider Institute for Health Policy at Brandeis University, found that more than a quarter of families with significant medical debt experienced resulting financial problems that made it difficult to find and/or maintain adequate housing for their families.1
And for such families, housing problems only make health problems worse. Now that the VanDykens are wedged into a few hundred square feet of living space, if one family member gets sick, the bug will inevitably and quickly spread.
Because of his Crohn’s, “Dan has no immune system,” his wife Mary says. And Dan isn’t the only family member for whom a common cold can be a major problem: The couple’s grandson, Cody, a third-grader, has asthma.
Studies show that children living in inadequate housing are 10 times more likely than children in good housing to develop asthma and other respiratory problems.2 And research also supports what the VanDykens already know: when people are in crowded conditions they get sick more often. 3
Counting his sister-in-law, who shares their home, Julio Ortiz has a family of seven in his three-bedroom rental house. His wife, Juana, confirms that the any colds the children bring home from school tend to circulate quickly through the house.
In their future Habitat homes, both the VanDykens and the Ortiz family will have a little more space and a better chance to stay healthy.
Julio will go from paying $1,000 per month in rent to writing a mortgage check of just a few hundred dollars. With what he’ll soon have left over from his paycheck, he can afford to consider things that once seemed out of reach: like taking a day off and seeing a doctor when he gets sick.
Citations – Blog Post:
- The Access Project: How Medical Debt Undermines Housing Security. http://www.accessproject.org/adobe/home_sick.pdf
- Lisa Harker, Shelter: http://england.shelter.org.uk/professional_resources/policy_and_research/policy_library/policy_library_folder/chance_of_a_lifetime_-_the_impact_of_bad_housing_on_childrens_lives
- Overcrowding leads to disease transmission: National Institute of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447157/
Citations – Social Media Posts:
Monday – Children, substandard housing and asthma: Lisa Harker, Shelter: http://england.shelter.org.uk/professional_resources/policy_and_research/policy_library/policy_library_folder/chance_of_a_lifetime_-_the_impact_of_bad_housing_on_childrens_lives
Tuesday – Health hazards of substandard housing: National Institute of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447157/
Wednesday – Overcrowding leads to disease transmission: National Institute of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447157/
Thursday – Poverty and inability to take sick leave: The Economic Policy Institute: The Need for Paid Sick Days: http://www.epi.org/publication/the_need_for_paid_sick_days/
Friday – Medical Debt and housing problems: The Access Project: How Medical Debt Undermines Housing Security. http://www.accessproject.org/adobe/home_sick.pdf
Housing expenses are a major challenge for families in poverty
In his native Guatemala, Julio Ortiz was a school teacher. He walked for miles to work each day before he saved enough from his $10 per day salary to afford a modest motorcycle.
After immigrating to America in search of a better future for himself and his family, Julio found a job on one of Whatcom County’s berry farms. Now he makes more a couple more dollars in an hour than he once made in a day.
But even though he often works 60 hours a week in the growing season and more during the harvest, his paycheck doesn’t go very far. The family is more hopeful about their future here than they were in Guatemala. But they’re still struggling.
“We’re just living week to week,” he says. Julio works hard to put money away for the winter, when he can’t work as much, but it’s rarely enough.
Julio, his wife Juana, their four children, and Juana’s sister all share a small, three-bedroom home in Everson with Juana’s sister. It’s crowded, but they do what they need to get by.
For low-income families in Whatcom County, immigrants and non-immigrants alike, stories like that of the Ortiz family are common.
The average wage here is not enough to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at market rates 1 and an estimated sixty percent of low income households here spend more than half their income on housing.2
“Housing is considered affordable when you’re paying 30% or less of your income on rent or mortgage payments,” says Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County’s Executive Director, John Moon. “When families are earning very little and then spending most of their income on shelter, it’s very difficult to plan for tomorrow. They often can’t even plan for today. These families are often making hard choices between paying rent and paying other bills; putting food on the table; getting proper health care; buying clothes and school supplies for their children.”
At Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County, we work in partnership with hard-working low-income families to build simple homes. We build these homes with volunteer labor and sell them at cost, with a zero percent mortgage to families who qualify for our homeownership program.
For most partner families, a Habitat mortgage is less expensive than paying rent on an apartment. But a Habitat home does much more than just freeing families from the daily struggle to make ends meet.
Homeownership creates stability, financial self-reliance, community involvement, and wealth that can be passed on to future generations, helping families break the cycle of intergenerational poverty forever.
“Our goal is to build a home that’s affordable to someone who’s making minimum wage,” Moon explains.
It’s a big investment to make in a single family, but Habitat affiliates and their communities have built over half a million homes around the world for over three decades, because the model works. Of the 34 homes Habitat has built to date in Whatcom County, 92 % are still occupied by the original homeowner.
These families are contributing financially to their communities through property taxes, and investing in a better future for themselves and their kids.
Julio Ortiz, who is working with Habitat to build a home for his family (the Ortiz home will begin construction in Birch Bay next month) is grateful for the opportunity to better provide for his children’s future, and to help other Habitat partner families do the same.
Because Habitat families have mortgages that return to Habitat, every home that our community helps us build for a needy family, is paid forward to help build future homes.
Citations: Blog Post.
1. National Low-Income Housing Coalition Report- https://www.hfhwhatcom.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/County
2. Comprehensive-Plan-for-Housing-Jan-2010.pdfWhatcom Prosperity Project, 2012,
Citations: Social Media for the week of September 8-14.
1. Monday: Whatcom County poverty rates vs. Washington State average:
2. Tuesday: Number of very low income families in Whatcom County
3. Wednesday: Percentage of low-income families paying over 50% of their income on housing
4. Thursday: Affordability of housing based on average wage:
5. Saturday: Percentage of low income families who choose between paying for housing and purchasing other necessities:Whatcom Prosperity Project, 2012,