Story last updated at 3:08 p.m. Thursday, October 10, 2002

Habitat for Humanity set to build first Homer home
by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

photo: news

  Photo by Chris Bernard, Homer News
From left, Nic, Cheryl and Nathan Miller pose in the rain recently with Kay Sebade, chair of the Family Selection Committee for the Homer affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, and Dan Boone, who heads up the local affiliate, at the Aspen Lane site of the home the nonprofit group plans to build for the Millers in the coming year.  
The family chosen for Habitat for Humanity's first homebuilding venture in Homer is anxiously awaiting its new digs.

"We're very excited," said Cheryl Miller. "It seems a long way off."

Miller, along with her 9- and 11-year-old sons Nathan and Nic, were chosen from a field of applicants by the Homer affiliate's family selection committee to benefit from the non-profit organization's initial offering.

Under the program's charter, Habitat volunteers will build a two-bedroom home on a city-donated lot. The family will purchase the home with an interest-free, no-profit loan from the organization. Habitat carries the loan, and as the payments come in, they're used to build other houses, he said.

"Cheryl and her family will get a two-bedroom home that's about 900 square feet," said Dan Boone, who heads up the Homer affiliate. "That's kind of the Habitat standard -- by being an affiliate, we've agreed to follow those guidelines set down by Habitat International."

Homer's Habitat earned its affiliation in August, and immediately began seeking families to apply.

If you build it, they will come. At least, that's what Boone thought.

"We only had four families apply," he said. "That was a bit of a disappointment for most of the folks working with Habitat for Humanity, but what we found out is that's not unusual. There's an uncertainty about what the organization is going to do, and there's a reluctance on the part of people to apply."

The city donated a small lot in the Meadowwood subdivision on Aspen Lane, and local volunteers are lined up to work on the house. Under the terms of the contract, families receiving houses contribute work to the tune of 200 hours per adult family member.

"It's called sweat equity," Boone said.

To be considered, families must meet three criteria.

"The first is an income guideline," he said. "Basically, they need to be making 25 to 50 percent of the median for the area, which is $53,000 in Homer. Second, they must be currently living in substandard housing. Third, they must be willing to partner with Habitat for Humanity.

"Families apply, and it goes to a family selection committee. They look to see if the family meets the guidelines, and they try to make an objective decision."

Now that the family has been selected, Habitat is in the process of raising money for the house.

"We need to get enough this fall to get the house under way," Boone said.

"If we don't raise $20,000, we have to wait until spring. But we really want to get it framed and roofed before the winter.

"We've raised $4,000 or so thus far, and we'll need about $50,000 total," he said. "That's not allowing for any labor we'll need."

In many cases, construction materials are donated for the project. Boone said the local affiliate is unsure whether that will happen, but he's working toward it.

"I don't know that right now, but we're hoping some materials providers will give us materials," said Boone. "We've got plenty of volunteers lined up to do the construction, and once we start building more houses, we'll get to the point where all of them will be able to help out."

Boone, who retired after 25 years with the Fish and Wildlife Service, began his work with Habitat for Humanity a couple of years ago.

"There was a couple who lived here, Bob and Leslie Bell, who left to work on Habitat," he said. "They came back and gave a program on it, and I went and was really impressed.

"The whole idea of faith in action, of people really doing something concrete to help those less fortunate, really appealed to me."

Since its inception in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 120,000 homes worldwide.

About 15 people sit on the local board of directors, Boone said, and at least that many on various committees.

"We have twice that number who want to volunteer," he said. "It's a good thing."

Chris Bernard can be reached at cbernard@homer