Hometown Habitat News

Inmate Construction Academy created to build Habitat homes, help Lake County Jail inmates learn skills

Chad Johnson, left, and Jared Hainey, inmates at the Lake County Jail, dig ditches that will be used to install plumbing for a home under construction by Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. (Martin E. Comas/Orlando Sentinel)

When Carlos Angulo leaves the Lake County Jail as a free man in the coming months, he will carry with him newly-learned construction skills — including painting, plumbing and flooring — that he hopes will land him a job.

But more importantly, Angulo said, he helped build an affordable home for a family in need while learning those skills.

Angulo, 20, is among half a dozen Lake County inmates who have started building a home on West St. Louis Drive in Eustis for Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter as part of the new Inmate Construction Academy, a jail work-release partnership with the Sheriff’s Office comparable to other efforts around the country.

“I like doing this kind of work,” Angulo said Wednesday as he took a break. “I hope to eventually get a job in the construction industry with the skills I’ve learned….And it gets me out of the jail.”

He and the other inmates were installing water and sewer lines on the home site before the concrete for the foundation is poured in the coming days. The three-bedroom, two-bathoom home should be completed in about six months.

Using inmates to build homes for Habitat for Humanity has been successfully implemented for years in other parts of the country as a way to reduce recidivism.

In 2015, the Habitat for Humanity Capital District and the Albany County Sheriff’s Office in upstate New York launched a similar jail work-release program.

Read the full article written by Martin E. Comas – Contact Report – Orlando Sentinel

Lake County inmates to help construct Habitat for Humanity homes

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – The Lake County Sheriff’s Office announced on Tuesday that inmates will now be working to help build Habitat for Humanity houses.

Inmates will be able to leave jail and head out into the community to help on the project. Officials hope that the inmates will learn skills that will help them once they are released so that they won’t end up back behind bars.

The program, Inmate Construction Academy, was launched Monday at a site in Eustis.

“They’ll learn how to build a house, from start to finish,” said Danielle Stroud of Habitat for Humanity. “They will be part of the process the entire way.”

Officials said only a select bunch of inmates will get the chance to be a part of the program.

The sheriff’s office is hoping this program is as successful as the one launched last year that helped female inmates learn to sew.

Habitat for Humanity officials said they always need volunteers, but the inmates will be extra help on top of what they already have.

Unlike other Habitat for Humanity sites, the one where inmates will be working will be closed to other volunteers.

By: Myrt Price

Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight

Christina A. Campbell
Attorney

From a young age, Christina Campbell’s mother instilled in her the importance of helping others. And that has become a priority for the local attorney who earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Florida in 2016 and still finds time to serve a number of community organizations.

Campbell has been a member of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter’s Foundation Board since 2018 and was appointed to the Affiliate Board in January 2019.

“Christina has been such a valuable asset to our organization as a member of our Foundation Board,” says Danielle Stroud, Director of Development at Habitat for Humanity. “We’re so fortunate to have the opportunity to further tap into her passion and abilities as a member of our Affiliate Board.”

In addition to her work with Habitat for Humanity, Campbell has been a member of the Junior League since 2014 and currently serves on the Community Impact Committee.  She is also a member of the Villages Morning Rotary Club and the Leadership Lake County Class of 2019.  While in her hometown of Lakeland, she volunteers her time with Volunteers in Service to the Elderly.

Campbell says her love of volunteering stems from the values she was exposed to as a child as well as the feeling she gets from helping others accomplish something they couldn’t have done on their own. Though she had already shown her commitment to Habitat through her service on the Foundation Board, she says that seeing first-hand the impact of the organization’s time and effort solidified her love for Habitat and its mission.

“I had the privilege of joining a team for the Global Village Trip to Honduras in June of last year,” says Campbell. “This trip was life changing – the people I met, both volunteers and home owners, became a part of my family and I will never forget the memories we made on that trip.”

“I truly believe in Habitat’s mission. Home is where you go to feel safe, where you go to re-charge, where you go to be with your family,” Campbell shared when asked why Habitat’s mission is important to her personally. “If you don’t have a place where you feel safe and secure, it is much harder to make positive choices and achieve your goals.  I believe that our work helps families who want to build better lives for themselves.  I also like the fact that Habitat allows for hands on volunteer work so that I can see the actual benefit of my time in the community.”

Campbell’s says her experience as an attorney has taught her how to listen to people’s needs and develop a plan to help them achieve their goals.  “I genuinely enjoy helping people. I do that in my daily work, and I want to continue doing that with Habitat,” says Campbell.

With all of Campbell’s commitments, she has still found the time to lead a team for Habitat’s Women Build Event which is a national initiative to provide safe and decent homes for families in need of affordable housing. Campbell, whose team is comprised of women from the McLin Burnsed law firm where she practices as an attorney, says she “looks forward to working together as women to make a difference in the community and break some stereotypes.” Something Campbell is already doing as she gives back to community in so many ways.

“Christina has already made a tremendous impact at Habitat,” says Stroud. “She was a natural choice for our Affiliate Board and we know she’ll bring the same level of drive and dedication that she has become known for in our community.”

By David Larrick

Romac Match

 

RoMac Lumber and Supply’s Match for March continues in 2019 with an unprecedented offer; in the month of March all donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $20,000 and will benefit the Youth Construction Academy of Leesburg. Those interested in donating during the Match period can do so by going to www.habitatls.org/give or by mail to 900 Main Street, Ste 210, The Villages, FL, 32159.

Leesburg High School students will begin their Youth Construction Academy program in August 2019. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter, selected students will get the hands-on training of building a home from the ground up. Students who have entered the Youth Construction Academy in their Junior year will learn safety standards, plan reading, basic rough carpentry and framing; along with many other subjects that are necessary in the construction field.

During their Senior year, the students will take what they’ve learned in the classroom and spend a daily class period at a live construction site. Hands-on training of the techniques and safety standards previously learned will be applied as students practice concept reinforcement and acquire a certificate of completion that can be used when pursuing higher education or entering the workforce. By the end of the student’s senior year they will have the finished product of their labor standing in front of them, a brand new affordable home.  Students will be invited to join the dedication ceremony, meeting the Habitat family that they built this home for.

“Don Magruder, CEO of RoMac Lumber, has been a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter and our mission of providing housing for all.  As the president of the construction academy advisory board at Leesburg High School he is eager to invest in the students,” says Danielle Stroud, Director of Development.  “The construction advisory board wants this program to be the best in the state…so we are going to work to ensure that is a reality.”

RoMac’s Match is a limited time opportunity to double your impact for double the cause! Build a safe, affordable home in the community and invest in skillful education for our students, while building foundations in the community that will benefit home ownership and the future of our workforce for years to come.

 

Youth Construction Academy: Builds Dreams

For Jasmine and her six-year-old daughter, the dream of owning a new home began with an email from The Villages Charter Schools. For the students at the high school, they began building those dreams a year earlier.

The Villages Charter School, in The Villages, Florida, had just launched their Construction Management Academy and had assembled an advisory committee that included industry experts to help steer curriculum for the new academy. Don McGruder, CEO of RoMac Lumber and a member of the advisory committee, suggested the academy partner with Habitat for Humanity which then began working with the high school to hammer out the details of a partnership as soon as possible.

The following year, an email looking for applicants to participate as the home owner landed in Jasmine’s inbox. “I remember when I was chosen for the opportunity,” said Jasmine. “I was super excited and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it.”

Jasmine’s daughter Carmen was overjoyed as well. “She was literally jumping for joy,” Jasmine said of her daughter’s reaction to being told they were getting a home of their own. “She’s excited about finally having a backyard.”

As for the students participating in the Construction Management Academy, they were excited about the opportunity to give back to the community while preparing for employment or advanced training in the building construction industry. The academy’s curriculum, which is a credit course for the students, outlines opportunities to learn everything from basic use of hand tools, plan reading and rough carpentry to more advanced concepts such as site preparation, estimating and knowledge of codes, regulations and sustainability issues relevant to the construction industry.

The academy’s students have had hands on involvement with everything except for plumbing, HVAC, and electrical work which must be done by licensed professionals. Even so, they were able to observe those trades being performed in a live environment and were presented with speakers and other learning opportunities to increase their knowledge of those trades.

Jasmine learned some new skills as well by helping with painting and the installation of the home’s dry wall. And, while her daughter was too young to help in the construction, they were both able to meet some of the young men helping them realize their dream. They have a great group of kids working on the house,” said Jasmine.  “It’s amazing to see what these young men have accomplished.”

The mother-daughter duo gets to see those accomplishments on a near daily basis. “They’re ahead of schedule and we’re closing in April,” said Jasmine who takes Carmen to check on their new home every day after school. Jasmine also noted Carmen’s excitement at seeing all of the young kids playing in their future neighborhood. “I’m excited because now we’ll be in a new neighborhood and I can make new friends,” shared Carmen.

The partnership with The Villages Charter School has been such a success that Habitat for Humanity is already in the process of selecting a home site on which to work with the academy next year. Habitat is also extending the program into Leesburg where it plans to partner with Leesburg High School on a similar program.

As for Jasmine and Carmen, they are planning on celebrating their move with both of their birthdays in June. “We’ll be having a housewarming party with some friends and family as well,” says Jasmine. But Carmen has much bigger plans. “In June, for my birthday, I’m going to have a mermaid slumber party with all my friends and cousins!” Surely a place and time for new dreams to come true.

By David Larrick

Affordable Housing Part 4: B is for Baloney: The Myth-ing Information Problem

B is for Baloney: The Myth-ing Information Problem

 

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when a young couple talks about finding affordable housing? What about when a politician talks about it? Or a non-profit?

Lots of myths and mis-information about affordable housing affect our understanding of it. Here are some of the highlights from a Community Housing Partners fact sheet, Affordable Housing Facts . (Similar sources are linked at the end of this article.)

 

  1. It’s ugly: In the past, this was probably true, but the laws have changed. Affordable housing has to fit the community character in size and style, and it has to meet the same building restrictions and design standards as market-rate housing. If government funding is involved, then construction might have even more restrictions or higher standards. What makes it ‘affordable’ is the financing of the construction and/or the mortgage.
  2. It increases crime: According the CHP fact sheet, “There is no correlation between safe, decent and affordable housing and crime. Studies show that what does cause crime (and a host of other socio-economic ills) is community disinvestment, overcrowding, and a lack of jobs and community services. Failure to build affordable housing leads to slum conditions of overcrowding, absentee owners and deteriorating properties with no alternatives available to low-income families…Careful screening, proper management, and security measures help assure that illegal activities do not take place and that, if they do, they are dealt with swiftly and decisively. Most affordable housing residents want nothing more than to become part of the quiet, peaceful life of the surrounding community. They have sought out affordable housing so that they can live independent, self-sufficient lives.”
  3. It isn’t an asset to the community: The opposite is true. Affordable housing “enables low-paid workers and others to avoid homelessness…avoid the need for public benefits…enables individuals to stabilize their lives so they can pursue jobs, access needed services, and deal effectively with any problems they may have…Availability of affordable housing enables the city to attract and to retain employers who require affordable housing for their lower level employees…also reduces the stress on other government-provided social services.”

 

Other sources note another common myth: “I don’t know anyone who needs affordable housing.” Actually, you probably know at least one and maybe even several. Let’s go back to the definition of ‘affordable,’ which is that no more than 30% of gross household income is spent on rent/utilities or, in the case of home ownership, PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Look at the chart below; if you’re earning $10 per hour, on a 40 hour week, a 4 week month, an affordable rent or mortgage situation would mean paying no more than $480 per month. This is at an annual income of $19,200.  Another way to look at this is to look at the monthly rent column; for example, it’s very common to see a 2 bedroom apartment renting for $1200+ per month. To keep that ‘affordable’ you’d have to be earning $48,000 per year.

Hourly Wage

Weekly gross income @ 40 hours Income working 4 weeks per month Affordable Monthly Housing Expense Annual Income required:

40

4

30%

 $8.25

 $330  $1,320  $396

 $15,840

 $10.00

 $400

 $1,600  $480

 $19,200

 $15.00

 $600  $2,400  $720

 $28,800

 $25.00

 $1,000  $4,000  $1,200

 $48,000

 $30.00  $1,200  $4,800  $1,440

 $57,600

 

Any guesses as to a typical income in your company? Your church? Your community? Do you know what the median hourly wage is for your area? The median rent? Once we look at housing costs from the perspective of hourly or annual income, we learn a few things…and we’d be surprised at who we know or who we’re near who needs affordable housing options.

To better understand this way of looking at the issue, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) calculates what they call “The Housing Wage.” This number illustrates what hourly wage you’d have to earn to afford the typical rent based on where you live. For 2018, Florida has the 16th highest housing wage requirement in the entire country. Any guesses at to what you’d have to earn per hour to afford a typical 2 bedroom rental home in the state? Or if you’re earning minimum wage, how many hours you’d have to work each week to meet that ‘affordable’ number?  I double dog dare you to find out!


Your turn: If you’re up for the double-dog dare, go to the NLIHC site and see what hourly wage is required to afford (pay less than 30% of household income) rent/PITI in various locations. You can even drill down by zip code.

We encourage you to talk about this with everyone you know. Why? Because there’s someone out there who needs this information…and feel free to send them our way if they’re looking for an affordable home to buy in Lake or Sumter Counties. Let’s get the word out about making housing affordable!

And don’t forget to share your discoveries with us on social media.

Facebook     Instagram     Twitter

Additional resources:

https://www.abodo.com/blog/heavy-housing-burden/

https://www.abodo.com/blog/renter-cost-burdens-by-generation/

http://www.shimberg.ufl.edu/publications/FL_2017_RMS_fact_sheet.pdf  (Florida specific info)

Mary & Raymond Scott- Wildwood Repair and Restoration

To a passerby, the group of people at Mary and Raymond Scott’s house may have looked like a gathering of old friends and family. Among the hustle and bustle of a restoration in progress, there was laughter, story telling, and a sense of something special happening in the air.

They weren’t old friends though; they were a group of volunteers that Mary Scott saw outside another house in her Wildwood neighborhood, not too long ago. She noticed the Habitat for Humanity truck, and with her own home needing repairs, she felt drawn to get out and ask for help. Her application was approved, and her own experience with Habitat began. She considers it to be one of her greatest blessings in life.

The night before the restoration, Mary was so excited that she couldn’t sleep. “It was like my birthday and Christmas wrapped up into one,” she says. That following morning, when the volunteers stepped onto her property, she made it her mission to make them all feel welcomed. She greeted each volunteer with handshakes and hugs, taking the time to get to know each one personally. She would ask about their families and share stories about hers. She had cold drinks on hand, and prepared snacks and lunch so nobody would go hungry. “I like to make everyone feel special,” she says. “To me, everybody is somebody.” The gratitude and kindness Mary and Raymond showed ensured that those somebodies were going to pour their hearts into restoring their home for them.

As the house was being repaired and painted, a new AC unit was being installed and landscaping was being selected. If you didn’t know any better, you could have easily mistaken Raymond Scott for a volunteer. If there was a ladder being climbed, Raymond was at the bottom supporting it. When the AC was being installed, he was right there holding it in place. He stirred paint and brought tools, humble and helpful through the whole project.

Their experience with Habitat for Humanity has impacted the Scotts greatly. Not only do they have a fresh coat of paint on their home, but they also have a fresh perspective on life. Mary says she “thanks God every day” for this opportunity, and with her son being sick in the hospital believes that Habitat was sent into her life at a time she needed it the most. “I’ve never had anyone help me like this,” says Mary. “I feel so happy.”

When the project is completed, the volunteers leave but they are not forgotten.  This blessing has brought Mary and Raymond Scott closer together as a couple and they are thankful for that. Every morning they are up early, proudly taking care of their home. Together, they replanted a banana plant gifted to them by a volunteer so that it could get more sun. Neighbors slow down to compliment the colors Mary picked out for the house, and regulars at her church gush about how pretty it is. Their son joked about not recognizing the house at first, and their six-year-old great granddaughter picks up a broom and helps them sweep the “new house.” While this journey has brought the Scott family closer together, their kindness and appreciation has left an unforgettable impression on the volunteers.

I guess you could say that Habitat for Humanity doesn’t just work on homes, they work on hearts, too.

By: Lauren Lester

Affordable Housing Part 3: Affordable Housing Affects All of Us

Maybe you aren’t cost-burdened. You don’t have to decide between paying the light bill or buying food. And neither do your friends or neighbors. Maybe you’re thinking this whole issue of affordable housing doesn’t affect you.

Think again.

A 2014 report by Enterprise Community Partners (here) should make us all pause and reconsider. The lack of affordable housing has measurable impacts on families, communities, and society overall. The report on housing instability, including homelessness, presents their findings by major issues; below is an excerpt of just three of these issues we can all relate to:

• Education — Housing instability/homelessness (HI/H) jeopardizes children’s performance and success in school and contributes to long-lasting achievement gaps. The stress of HI/H makes learning difficult; in addition, it disrupts school attendance, lowering students’ overall academic performance. Long-term academic success is directly impacted by housing stability.

• Health — HI/H has serious negative impacts on the health of children and adults. Problems include asthma, being underweight, developmental delays, and increases the risk of depression, to name a few. Affordable housing provides stability, freeing up resources for nutritious food and health care.

• Neighborhood Quality — The report states that “A number of national and regional studies have found that investments in affordable housing produce benefits in the form of jobs, local income, sales, increased property values and property tax revenues…” and “…Numerous studies show that affordable housing has a neutral or positive effect on surrounding property values…”

Let’s bring this closer to home. In October 2017 the Orlando Sentinel published the results of a study done by the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida and Miami Homes for All, a South Florida nonprofit. The research focused on student homelessness; the Sentinel’s article (“Central Florida’s Homeless Students Top 14,000”) can be found here. According to the study, “…only 24 percent to 27 percent of homeless students passed assessment tests, while 40 percent to 48 percent of other students did.” They had higher rates of truancy and suspension, and “Even compared with students who live in poverty but are not homeless, the students whose families stay in shelters, cars, doubled up with another family or in extended-stay hotels fared significantly worse…” The Sentinel quotes Christina Savino, Orange County Public Schools senior administrator for homeless and migrant education: “…that lack of a stable home still really makes a difference.”

The lack of affordable, stable housing eventually ripples through all aspects of the local community and economy. While you might not be cost-burdened based on your income, your larger community, including the central Florida region as a whole, suffers when families are priced out of a stable place to call home.


Your turn: Contact a local food pantry, teacher, community police officer, or health clinic and discuss the issues they see related to housing instability/homelessness. For example, ask the food pantry how hunger affects their clients’ choices on other critical needs; ask a teacher how hunger affects a student’s classroom behavior and academic progress; ask a local police officer how the lack of affordable housing affects crime; ask a health clinic about the impact of delayed medical attention on children and families. Who else might you discuss the topic with? Share your experiences with us!

Students experience building firsthand

Kaleb Ward, left, a senior at The Villages High School, and Bruce Haberle, construction management academy instructor, work on the roof trusses on a Habitat for Humanity home under construction Thursday at Winners Circle in Lady Lake.
Bill Mitchell, Daily Sun

A local family soon will have a home with the help of 11 seniors from The Villages High School.

The students are building an 1,100-square-foot house in Lady Lake through the school’s Construction Management Academy’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity, a housing organization that works with communities across the nation.

On Thursday, the roof trusses were set on the house where the students have worn hard hats and climbed ladders four days a week since the beginning of the school year.

VHS Principal Bill Zwick stood at the construction site to observe and admire their hard work.

“This gives them the total experience of building a house from beginning to end,” Zwick said. “When they graduate, they’ll have this background knowledge. It’s a learning experience that will benefit them no matter where they go in life.”

The students started building the back wall Aug. 16, and their hands will be on the house until the project is complete at the end of the school year. So far, they are on schedule.

The two-year academy launched last year, and this is the first year it has been offered to both juniors and seniors.

The juniors learn the basics of construction and go through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour training, and the seniors put their skills to the test.

“It gives us a good foundation to build a career,” said senior Colby Sharp, 17.

Click here for the full article!

Lake County students continue building home

 – A Lake County class has high school students building a home with their own hands.

The class works to build a home within the school year, leaving them nine more months to go. At the end of those months, the home will be turned over to Habitat for Humanity. The students will complete everything that is not mechanical, plumbing, or electric. As of Thursday morning, the foundation has been poured in and they are setting up the roof.

Students come out to build the home four days a week. Friday’s are held in the classroom.