Who is our neighbor?
Who do we — as a people, a nation, a member of the global community, a nonprofit organization that works to create a world where everyone has a decent place to live — consider to be the neighbors who Christ so clearly instructed us to love as we love ourselves?
Every year at this time, as the proposed U.S. federal budget begins to take shape, we at Habitat for Humanity are active participants in the conversations that surround these truly life-altering decisions. Every year’s conversation is a critical one, but none more so than the one we find ourselves currently engaged in. Because we know exactly what — and who — is at stake here: our neighbors.
While we as always look forward to working with the administration and our many supporters in Congress as budget legislation moves forward, we must stand and say that this budget blueprint should not and cannot stand. What has been laid out leaves out and overlooks those among us who struggle. Instead of caring for the community as a whole, this budget cordons off and cuts out those in need of assistance, those in need of support and investment.
For us, this is a moral issue, not simply a budget one. Targeted programs like the Community Development Block Grant Program, the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, the Corporation for National and Community Service and so many more are absolutely vital to the health, well-being and stability of our communities. Of our neighbors. Of all of us.
The work that these programs empower Habitat and other organizations to accomplish means that more families are helped, heeded and housed. That more of our neighbors are cared for and given access to the tools they need to build better lives. Without the support of these domestic programs — and significant and continued international aid and development funding by the United States — Habitat would be forced to make impossible choices, stretching our precious resources further and further but ultimately serving fewer families.
These programs and funds are not unnecessary handouts or government expenditure run amok without proven results. They are — each of them — tangible, practical and effective investments that help families build or improve decent places to call home and that strengthen the fabric of the communities in which we all live and work. To end them is to give up on a better future. To claim otherwise is to grossly misrepresent what we see with our own eyes every day in cities and towns across the country and around the world.
For us, this is a moral issue, not simply a budget one.
The young man in North Carolina who says building his Habitat home and paying an affordable mortgage has made him a better father. The family in Uganda who no longer lives in a small mud hut, but now enjoys the safety and good health that a sturdy brick home makes possible. The mother of three in Colorado who says Habitat opened her eyes to how much she could accomplish. The entrepreneur in New Jersey who now owns her own business, something she directly attributes to the financial education that was part of her path to Habitat homeownership.
This is who stands to lose the most if we as a people, a nation, an organization, choose to stay silent on the choices our government makes. Their futures are so clearly intertwined with our own. They are our neighbors, and to fail them now is to fail our faith and ourselves.
Habitat for Humanity will always be a strong and firm voice as we advocate for and partner with those among us who must be remembered, who must be allowed opportunity, who cannot be cast aside. We know who our neighbors are, and we must love them as we love ourselves.
Please join us today, and add your voice to ours.
—Jonathan T.M. Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO
—Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Habitat for Humanity International COO