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Alabama Town Pledges: "No More Shacks!"

City of Anniston Accepts Challenge of Eliminating Poverty Housing By A Specific Date

Anniston, Ala. - August 17, 1998 - The city of Anniston Ala., in partnership with the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, became the fourth U.S. city to declare its intention to eliminate all substandard housing.

“The Anniston Initiative” was announced at a town meeting Friday evening, Aug. 14, in the town’s City Meeting Center. Led by Habitat for Humanity-Calhoun County, the initiative will mobilize government, business, religious groups and charities to identify all of the dilapidated, poverty housing in Calhoun County and replace it with simple, decent and affordable homes.

With this initiative, Anniston joined Yakima, Wash., Pendleton County, W.V., and Sumter County, Ga., as communities in the United States that are committing to the goal of eliminating substandard housing by a specific date.

“We can do this and we will do this,” exclaimed Anniston Mayor Gene Stedham. “We must do this because it is the right thing and the best thing we can do for this city.”

Vice Mayor and City Counselor Debra Foster reminded the audience of nearly 300 community and business leaders of the enormity of the task. “This program cannot work unless we all work together. No one in this community can opt out. We all must give, work and sacrifice.”

The meeting was attended by representatives from Habitat for Humanity’s international headquarters, including its Founder and President Millard Fuller, who was the evening’s keynote speaker. In the past 22 years, Habitat has built nearly 70,000 homes, providing housing for some 350,000 people in more than 50 countries around the world.

“Tonight you have made history,” declared Fuller, who in 1996 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work with Habitat. “You will look back at this event and say ‘I was there’ when this community pledged to make Anniston a great place to live for everyone. And the fact is, as great a city as this is, it’s not a great place for everyone. Some of your neighbors live in shacks. Most of us pray the Lord’s Prayer each week. When we do we say ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.’ Do you think there are shacks in Heaven? Then you know it’s not right that people are living in shacks in Anniston. That’s why what you’ve done tonight–this pledge to eliminate poverty housing–is the right thing to do.”

Fuller then congratulated Anniston’s civic leaders for their promise. “It’s a brave thing for the mayor and the city leaders to stand up in front of your friends and neighbors and the press and make this promise. It’s brave because you will be held accountable for the promise. But so will everyone in this room.”

Bill Wright, executive director of Habitat-Calhoun County, and Mayor Stedham promised an announcement next spring of the date by which poverty housing will be eliminated in Calhoun County, after both Habitat and the city of Anniston have completed county wide studies and surveys examining the extent of the community’s housing needs. Yakima, Wash., has committed to eradicate substandard housing by 2010, Pendleton County, W.V., has the year 2009 as its goal, while Sumter County, Ga., has set 2000 as the target.

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide. Habitat brings together people with resources and people in need to build simple, decent, affordable houses. The homes are sold to those in need at no profit, through no-interest loans. Founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller along with his wife Linda, Habitat for Humanity has built nearly 70,000 houses, providing shelter for some 350,000 people worldwide. It has affiliates in every state of the United States and in more than 50 other countries around the world.