Thursday, March 08, 2012

Faith Works 3-10

Faith Works 3-10-12

Jeff Gill


Deserving and deliberating and discerning




Here's a tough one.


Can you be too poor to get assistance?


It's a problem a number of our local faith-based, as well as public service assistance organizations deal with on a regular basis.


Just to pull an example out of the air: someone comes in, and needs rent assistance because some unexpected expenses (say, a transmission on the car and a biopsy on lung) have put you behind enough to be in danger of eviction.


But you talk to the family, all of whose adults are working and you can tell they're trying to hold it together with a good will . . . but they make a total of [Blank] dollars a month, with no real prospect of an increase on the horizon, while their rent is [80% of Blank]. Do you help them pay last month's and this month's rent when there's really no reason to think they'll be able to afford next month's rent?


And then, God bless them, they add that the pressures have led them to put some other living expenses on credit, so right now their monthly minimum is [10% of Blank].


The hardest thing to do in social service, sacred or secular, is to tell that family "No." You have a responsibility to use the funds you're entrusted with as wisely and well as you can, and the real issue here is that we need to find you somewhere else to live that's within your budget.


Sometimes folks stomp out on you at that point. Blessedly, sometimes those folks come back. And you try to help in a way that lasts.


Our local Habitat for Humanity chapter is in that sort of situation. They've built now over two-dozen homes, with church and community sponsorship, local labor, and the sweat equity of "partners," the family that will move into that home. They pay back a no-interest loan to Habitat, and there's a revolving fund that means, in essence, each partner, having put down their down payment in work, and paying small, reasonable payments for decent housing they will own outright, is paying into the NEXT house, and so on.


Which means that you can be a working poor family that actually makes too little to take on a Habitat house. If you don't make your modest payments, the next family may not get help, and the chain is broken, and can take a while to re-link and move forward.


So the "family recruitment" work of Habitat, as much as the trowel and hammer side of their work, can be tough. Folks come in, or call, attracted by the model, willing (SO willing) to do the work, and wanting out of substandard, inadequate housing. But they find that, sometimes, they don't make enough to qualify. That's tough.


I'm impressed, therefore, by the creative model to approach this situation that our local Habitat team has come up with, and I present their offer to you all, as is:


"Can you help us find two deserving families?  Habitat for Humanity - Licking County is looking for working families who fall in the low to moderate income level, have a stable source of income, would be willing to complete approximately 200 hours of "sweat equity" and currently live in substandard housing.  Habitat will have two homes available for ownership in Newark in the near future with low, interest-free payments.  If you or someone you know may be interested, please contact Steve Cramer at 740-587-0022 or  


Families interested need to attend a "Homeownership Orientation" on Saturday, March 17, 10:00 a.m. at the Lookup Center, 50 O'Bannon Avenue in Newark.  ALSO that day, a Free Community Pancake Breakfast will be served from 9:00-11:00.  All are welcome! If possible, sign up for the Orientation and/or Breakfast by

calling Sherry at 740-587-0022.  Thank you!"


Hey, thank you, Habitat for Humanity! At the worst, you still get a pancake breakfast. At the best, you might be able to get a home of your own. And if you have decent housing, but want to know more about the work and how you can join in, come have a pancake or two. There's plenty of that, at least, for all.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he's pleased to have worked on a few dozen Habitat homes himself and commends the work to anyone. Ask him more about it at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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