Changing Lives, One House at a Time

Habitat for Humanity's Episcopal Houses

In the summer of 2007, Bill Doyle was tapped by All Souls to come to the aid of those less fortunate through Habitat for Humanity. Asheville area Episcopal churches (about 12 congregations) pool resources to participate in a Habitat house every other year, and Bill was asked to organize All Souls’ volunteers for house number seven. Each congregation raises money and generates all volunteers. The last Episcopal House was constructed in fall 2013, and planning for the next house (to be constructed in fall 2015) will begin this coming spring.

“It’s typically a 10-week build from the foundation to the finished interior,” said Bill.

The core value of Habitat for Humanity is deep involvement by the potential homeowners. Any adult approved for the program must invest two hundred volunteer hours. “This is definitely one of the keys to Habitat’s success,” said Bill. “The homeowners have skin in the game.” While the homeowner obtains the home with no interest, he/she is responsible for paying the house in full. Home loans are based on a 20 to 30-year amortization with zero percent interest for the life of the loan.

It’s not an easy road for the homeowner. He/she has to be employed to qualify for a Habitat home and has to have lived or worked in Buncombe County for the past 36 months. The potential homeowner must also have and maintain good credit and have adequate income to cover the mortgage payment. And don’t forget the sweat equity of significant volunteer hours. The volunteering can take many different forms, from helping to construct someone else’s home to working in Habitat’s thrift shop, the ReStore. “Working on a neighbor’s house helps to build an investment in community,” said Bill.

The Habitat charter is “very consistent with our baptismal covenant of seeking to serve Christ in all others,” said Bill, who is now All Souls official Habitat representative. There is a standing group of All Souls volunteers. “I’m never worried about getting volunteers, and I never have to beg,” Bill said. “I want to give as many people as possible an opportunity to experience Habitat.” Not surprisingly, All Souls usually sends more volunteers than the number requested.

While Habitat volunteers must be 16 years old to participate (with parents’ consent), one can’t be too old to volunteer and all skill levels are welcome. “You can keep both feet on the ground at all times if that’s your comfort level,” Bill said. In 2013, Asheville volunteers contributed 61,000 hours to Habitat.

Habitat also offers a home repair program for low-income homeowners who are unable to make needed repairs due to limited income. Like the homeownership program, the home repair program has qualifications including residency, need and ability to pay.

Bill is on Habitat’s Outreach Committee, a team of volunteers who go into the community to talk about Habitat. “I can’t get enough of Habitat,” he said. During his years of involvement, Bill has admired Habitat for its engaged and supportive core values. “This non-profit is incredibly well managed and business oriented.”

Every Habitat family has a unique story to tell, but the common thread is the difference having a home of one’s own has meant to their lives. “Working for Habitat is a very specific commitment,” said Bill. “It’s not abstract: It’s personal. We are making a difference, one family at a time.” And in the course of helping those individual families, Habitat builds community.

A final point Bill wanted to make was the sense of empowerment and dignity that a homeowner receives from a Habitat home. “These are nice houses, and that’s as it should be.” What Habitat volunteers deliver is no less than what any homeowner wants for his/her family. “There’s a real sense of closure when you hand the keys of a Habitat house to its new family.”

by Susan Blexrud

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