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Habitat for Humanity on track to build 1,000 homes in Gulf Coast by summer

February 13, 2007

Nearly 18 months after storms, recovery work continues to help low-income families

ATLANTA (Feb. 13, 2007) – Nearly 18 months after Hurricane Katrina swept over the Gulf Coast, Habitat for Humanity is closing in on its initial 1,000-house goal to help low-income families displaced by the storm.

To date, more than 700 homes have been built or are under construction with plans to meet the organization’s goal of having its first 1,000 houses completed or under construction by mid-summer. Habitat plans to continue building once the first 1,000 homes are completed.

Habitat for Humanity has already begun to acquire land and plan for the next 1,000 homes, which will help ensure that local affiliates will be able to deliver affordable houses to qualifying low-income families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged during the 2005 hurricane season.

“I am proud of the exceptional work that dedicated Habitat for Humanity affiliates, volunteers, supporters and employees are doing in the Gulf Coast recovery,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “The 2005 hurricanes are memorable not only for the shocking devastation they caused but also for the shocking poverty they revealed. Through the homes being built today, Habitat will make a difference in the lives of low-income, hurricane-affected families now and for generations to come.”

“Operation Home Delivery (OHD),” Habitat for Humanity’s hurricane response program, was put in place immediately after Hurricane Katrina and then expanded after Hurricane Rita, to help low-income families in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama build permanent housing. Construction of the first Habitat OHD house began in early October 2005, just six weeks after Katrina hit. Work on the 500th Habitat OHD home began in November 2006. Work on house no. 700 began in late January.

“We currently are starting construction on more than 57 homes per month in a region where Habitat affiliates historically had built 57 homes per year,” said Ken Meinert, senior vice president of Operation Home Delivery and the U.S./Canada Area office for Habitat for Humanity International. “We are gratified by those numbers, but the job is far, far from done. We will be building in the region for many years to come.”

Habitat’s three goals for the effort are being met, Meinert said. The goals, set immediately after the hurricanes struck, included helping Habitat affiliates restore service in affected areas, partnering with other organizations to address the complex housing need and building simple, decent homes in partnership with low-income, hurricane-affected families.

“Many of our affiliates in the region were directly impacted by the storm,” Meinert said. “Some lost offices, tools, warehouses, supplies, virtually everything. And their staff members and volunteers were likewise affected. Many of them lost their homes, too. Today, affiliates’ ability to build not only has been restored, but greatly enhanced.

“In fact, some affiliates are building far more houses this year alone than they had built in their previous existence. That has been made possible by help from Operation Home Delivery—and the work of more than 50,000 Habitat volunteers who have come from around the country to help for periods ranging from a few days to many months.”

Habitat for Humanity is meeting its partnership goal as well, Meinert said.

Habitat partnered with Church World Service to help fund the repair of 500 homes for low-income families and with The Salvation Army to increase building capacity, provide housing for volunteers, and make homes along the Gulf Coast more affordable. Lutheran Social Services and other Katrina Aid Today consortium members are also actively engaged in helping families find appropriate housing solutions, including Habitat homes. Habitat volunteers have also helped remove debris and clean thousands of homes in preparation for their rehabilitation.

Habitat for Humanity has spent nearly half of the about $128 million in contributions received to date for its hurricane recovery work. About 90 cents of every dollar has gone directly to program costs, including land acquisition, development and construction materials.

“We’re not a disaster relief or first-responder organization, and house building isn’t done overnight,” said Meinert. “We were at work in the Gulf Coast communities before the hurricanes hit and we will be there as long as there is a need and we have the resources to help. Prudent spending on land and materials will make our donors’ dollars go further, and eventually will result in more houses.”

Meinert said Habitat for Humanity’s current funding will pay for at least 2,000 new homes in the region.

“The houses we are building with partner families are designed to be part of the long-term answer to a long-term issue,” he said. “You can’t look at these devastated communities and not wish you could do more and do it faster. That always will be our goal, but we also are committed to doing the job in a way that will be efficient and lasting—our goal for each of the more than 200,000 houses Habitat has built around the world.”

The work in the Gulf Coast continues as does Habitat’s work in 1,700 communities across the United States and Canada and in more than 90 countries around the world.

Nicolas P. Retsinas, chair of Habitat for Humanity International’s board of directors and director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, lauded Habitat affiliate, homeowner, staff and volunteer efforts to date.

“Unprecedented disasters required unprecedented responses. Over the past two years, Habitat for Humanity has stepped forward to respond to the catastrophes of the tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Under the most trying circumstances imaginable, we have built more homes and assisted more families than at any time in our history. Volunteers, homeowners and dedicated staff have been heroic. And notwithstanding all we have done, our work has just begun.”

The current pace of Operation Home Delivery construction requires at least 1,000 volunteers per week. Volunteers can register and donations can be made online at www.habitat.org, or by calling (800) HABITAT (422-4828).

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in Americus, Ga., in 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1 million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org.