The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 23, 2011

Mike Pound: Joplin Habitat looking for eligible families

By Mike Pound
news@joplinglobe.com

JOPLIN, Mo. — A quick drive on Missouri Highway 171 near the Joplin Regional Airport tells you all you need to know.

Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile homes on the south side of the highway testify to the fact that three months after the May 22 tornado, many people in Joplin remain in need of permanent housing.

That’s one of the reasons folks with Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity are trying to drum up business. The organization, made up almost entirely of volunteers, builds safe, affordable houses for qualified applicants.

Normally, the group builds three to four homes a year, but donations and pledges of support in the wake of the tornado have given the organization hope that in the next few months, construction on many more homes can begin. The goal is to provide some permanent, quality housing for families that lost their homes in the storm. The problem, so far, has been finding those families.

On Tuesday, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity put on an informational session at Mount Hope Church of Christ, 2830 Mount Hope Road, in Webb City. The meeting allowed people in need of housing to meet with Habitat for Humanity representatives and volunteers to learn if they might qualify for housing assistance. At the end of the nearly 4 1/2-hour session, four families had dropped by.

Julie Maus, a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, said there are several reasons for the less-than-robust response. Many people, she said, automatically assume that they don’t qualify for Habitat homes, and others just haven’t considered Habitat as a possible resource.

“And others see it (a Habitat home) as a handout and may be reluctant to accept a handout,” she said.

In fact, Maus said, a Habitat home is not a handout. People who are selected must be able to pay for their homes in the form of monthly mortgage payments. Habitat for Humanity provides a no-interest, 20-year loan to recipients, and the loan must be paid off. As part of the application procedure, Habitat volunteers work to ensure that people are not placed in a home they can’t afford.

As for the application steps, Maus said some people might be surprised to find that they do qualify.

The neat thing about Habitat for Humanity homes is that they are built almost entirely by volunteers using materials that have been provided almost entirely via donations. That helps keep the homes affordable.

Since the tornado, Maus said, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity has been inundated with donations of cash and supplies. Offers of assistance have come into the Joplin office from all over the country, and the group is eager to take advantage of those offers and get families into homes.

“We know there are qualified families out there,” Maus said. “We just need to connect with them.”

More informational sessions are set for 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday at Mount Hope Church of Christ.

Anyone with questions about a Habitat home may attend the meetings. If you can’t make the meetings, you may call the Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity office at 417-782-6533 or visit its website at www.joplinhabitat.org and fill out an application online.