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Construction begins on 500th Habitat for Humanity home on Gulf Coast

Organization’s hurricane rebuilding efforts half-way toward goal of 1,000 homes by next summer

AMERICUS, Ga. (Nov. 8, 2006) – Less than 15 months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita came ashore on the Gulf Coast, Habitat for Humanity is set to reach a construction milestone toward its home rebuilding efforts. Walls will be raised on Habitat’s 500th hurricane recovery home on Tuesday, Nov. 14, just outside of Mobile, Ala.

“We are pleased to celebrate the significance of this 500th house,” said Ken Meinert, senior vice president of Operation Home Delivery, Habitat’s hurricane recovery program. “And while we pause to reflect on this achievement and thank all those involved, we know that our job is not done yet and there is much more to build.” By mid-summer of 2007, the organization plans to have built 1,000 houses all along the Gulf Coast.

To emphasize that point, Meinert said that additional homes will be started in other Gulf Coast communities on Nov. 14. “Our strategy is, and always has been, to work with local Habitat affiliates and other community organizations to help low-income families build simple, decent homes and recover. Our affiliates and partners have done a phenomenal job in the last 15 months to get to this point. These additional homes represent our commitment to continued construction in the Gulf Coast,” said Meinert.

“We are honored to mark this milestone in Mobile County,” said Brenda Carson-Lawless, executive director of Mobile County Habitat for Humanity. “Since the storm, we’ve tripled our construction capacity. We’re on track to build 40 homes this year and 60 in 2007.”

Gulf-area Habitat affiliates’ construction efforts have seen exponential growth in the last year. All of that work has been made possible by financial and volunteer support. Since the hurricanes, more than 29,000 volunteers from across the United States and Canada have helped in the construction and recovery efforts. In addition, the organization has received nearly $125 million in donations and pledges and continues to seek funding and volunteers to help as many displaced low-income families as possible.

“We are truly grateful for the many people who are giving their time and resources to help low-income families rebuild their lives,” Meinert said. “We could not have come this far without their help and we cannot reach our goal without their continued support. We are especially appreciative of the congregational groups. Without their efforts, very little recovery would have been done. We can build more homes faster if we get more volunteers coming.”

In addition to building homes, Habitat also is working to serve as a catalyst that brings together organizations to address low-income housing and recovery on a scale that Habitat alone would not be able to accomplish. In the past year, Habitat has partnered with Church World Service to help fund the repair of homes for low-income families, and with The Salvation Army to increase building capacity, volunteer accommodations, and affordability of homes along the Gulf Coast. Lutheran Social Services and other Katrina Aid Today consortium members are also actively engaged helping families find appropriate housing solutions, including Habitat homes. Many other partnerships and collaborations are ongoing with community and faith groups and long-term recovery committees.

Immediately after Katrina struck, Habitat launched its Operation Home Delivery program to help displaced, low-income families in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama rebuild permanent housing as part of the region’s long-term reconstruction. The operation grew to include assistance for people in Texas and western Louisiana affected by Hurricane Rita.

An international homebuilding movement with operations in more than 90 countries, Habitat for Humanity has been at work in the Gulf Coast helping low-income families build permanent housing for more than 20 years. Operation Home Delivery funding and support have assisted Gulf Coast Habitat affiliates in broadening their efforts to house even more people during the rebuilding process.

Volunteers can sign up to help build in a Gulf Coast community and donations for this continued effort can be made online at www.habitat.org.

NOTE: A press conference followed by a wall-raising ceremony at the 500th Habitat house will be held on Tuesday, November 14, 2006, at 11:30 a.m. in Irvington, Ala. The house is located in Magnolia Crest, a new Habitat for Humanity subdivision in Mobile County.

Directions to the site:
Take Interstate 10 to exit 10 – south to Bayou La Batre/Irvington. At Highway 90, go west about ¼ mile and then south on Bayou La Batre-Irvington Road. Turn east, left, on One Mile Road and go about ½ mile and turn south, right, on Magnolia Road. This is a dirt road. The subdivision is on the right about 1,500 feet. There will be signs identifying the 500th house construction site.

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.