It’s a long row to hoe, but we’ll get there -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

It’s a long row to hoe, but we’ll get there

By Jonathan Reckford

Habitat for Humanity alone will never build enough houses to overcome the vast scourge of poverty housing in our world. That’s why we have to look broadly and creatively at how best to reach more families, while closely adhering to our mission and core principles.

Our longstanding second mission principle is: “Advocate on behalf of those in need of decent shelter.” It says that, as an integral part of our work, we commit to communicating the needs of all people for safe and decent shelter, thereby engaging in deliberate efforts to leverage change within society to eliminate restraints that contribute to poverty and poverty housing.

Wherever we might be working around the world, Habitat partners will always be found building and repairing homes. But even as we do that, we also want to short-circuit the forces that draw—and keep—families in poverty housing.

I’ve told the story before of the old farmer hoeing rocks out of his garden at the bottom of a steep hill. He knew, of course, that nothing could grow in the rocky soil. Yet every time he removed one rock, two more would tumble down the hill to take its place. After the better part of the day hoeing tirelessly in his garden, he decided to climb the hill to see what was causing the stones to tumble his way in the first place.

Similarly, the housing crisis across the globe is outpacing our efforts to build more homes. And so, through advocacy, we want to “climb the hill” to address the root causes forcing families into substandard conditions. In fact, Goal 3 in our strategic plan calls on us to do exactly that: to help transform the systems that have an impact on affordable housing.

Our advocacy team, with input and collaboration from many other Habitat partners worldwide, has identified two priorities on which to focus their efforts in the coming months: housing trust funds in the United States and land tenure, the lack of which poses a tremendous barrier in many other parts of the world.

Departments within Habitat for Humanity International are pursuing their own advocacy efforts as well, including Global Village and Youth Programs, which last April coordinated Act! Speak! Build! Week, an annual effort to mobilize students as advocates.

I know many of you are incorporating advocacy opportunities into your own efforts, and I encourage you to continue. If you haven’t already, please consider becoming an online advocate by visiting and signing up for Action Alerts—along with some 27,000 others who’ve already taken that step. It’s an easy way to speak up on behalf of those whose housing plights go too often unheard.

Let’s keep building. Let’s keep hammering and laying block, creating and strengthening new partnerships to create more access to housing. But let’s also advocate with equal vehemence—because if we want in the end to leave a deeper impact worldwide, advocacy is one clear path to help get us there.

Jonathan Reckford is CEO of Habitat for Humanity International.