Western Students to Bike Across U.S. for Affordable Housing
Meet Kendyl and Brooks. Both seniors at Western Washington University, Kendyl and Brooks are preparing for a cross country bike ride that will take them from New Hampshire all the way back home to Bellingham – nearly 4,000 miles. Along the way they’ll help build safe, durable housing for families in need through Bike & Build, an organization dedicated to empowering young adults for service as well as to raising funds and awareness for affordable housing in the U.S.
Sharing the Affordable Housing Story
They sat down with Habitat homeowners Mary and Dan VanDyken to chat about Bike & Build, Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County, and the impact safe, decent, affordable housing has had on the VanDyken family. Kendyl and Brooks will take that conversation with them on the road, sharing the VanDyken’s story with the communities they visit along the way. This is part of a Bike & Build rider’s commitment: meet with people in the community affected by the affordable housing crisis and share what you’ve learned from them with others as you bike and build your way across the country. “Even when we’re not building, we’re interacting with communities and talking about affordable housing,” says Brooks.
Ride Along in Spirit
In 2 weeks, Kendyl and Brooks will fly East. But the work has already begun. In addition to racking up at least 500 miles of pre-trip biking, riders must raise a minimum of $4,500 to participate. It’s a far cry from the typical American college student’s idea of summer vacation. Even so, when we talked with Kendyl and Brooks about their preparations and the ride ahead, they were all smiles and enthusiasm. Echoing one of Habitat’s messages, Kendyl says, “So much is dependent on a good place to live.” Like Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County, these 2 Western students believe that everyone deserves a decent place to live, and everyone can do something today to help make that possible for another family. It doesn’t have to be biking across the country, though. Instead, visit their donation pages to ride with them in spirit and leave the pedaling to Kendyl and Brooks!
2015 Lowe’s National Women Build Event
Saturday May 9th marked our Lowe’s Women Build event. 50 volunteers came out and helped spread fill sand on the current build project for the VanDyken family house. The weather could not have been better! We want to thank everyone who came out and Lowe’s for sponsoring the event. We also want to say thank you to Valpak for providing lunch for the hungry crew.
Visit our Facebook page for more photos from the day.
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
Beginning the journey to homeownership with Habitat
Meet the VanDyken family
Dan VanDyken worked in the construction trades all his life. Until a few years ago.
He and his wife, Mary, and their young grandson Cody, rented a comfortable home in Bellingham. They enjoyed spending weekends at a rustic cabin on a piece of property they owned in Glacier.
But when Dan was diagnosed with severe Crohn’s Disease, and then suffered several strokes as a result, everything changed. Dan was no longer able to work.
“At first, the money I had saved up, I spent on medical bills,” he says.
Even though he eventually got some financial assistance, the bills were still overwhelming, and the home they were renting in Bellingham became unaffordable. They found refuge in the only place they could afford to: their tiny, uninsulated cabin on the Nooksack River.
A few hundred square feet doesn’t provide much room to live, especially not for a very active third-grader. After two and half years together in the cabin, everyone is looking forward to a little more space.
“It’s been hard,” Mary says. “Especially in the cold weather.”
Next year, they’ll finally have a well-insulated house with enough room for everyone. Habitat plans to build the Van Dyken’s new home in the spring of 2014 on the property they already own. The cabin will eventually be demolished.
The family has already the 500 hours of sweat equity required to purchase a Habitat home, much of it by volunteering at the Habitat Store. Soon the family will be at work alongside Habitat volunteers, building a safe, decent, affordable home with room for everyone; a place home that will remain affordable no matter what.