Lunch-in supports future homeowners
Building on their 2020 effort to pivot quickly to a virtual, safe annual Hope Builders fundraising event, Habitat for Humanity Spokane is applying what they learned to their 2021 event to keep people's attention and inform them of the unique needs in the COVID pandemic housing crisis.
Michelle Girardot, executive director of Habitat-Spokane, said they appreciate the energy of gathering friends, but online is the safest way for now.
The Hope Builders Virtual Lunch-In will be at noon, Thursday, April 29, accessible online at habitat-spokane.org.
Michelle outlined today's crisis in affordable housing and homeownership. Pre-pandemic, Habitat-Spokane had 12 qualified families. Now there are 48, with three or four new families entering the homeownership program each month.
"A 400 percent increase of applications by families for homeownership makes it clear why dollars are so important now," she said. "We hope to accommodate them."
"There was a housing shortage and crisis before the pandemic, but the pandemic has added challenges with the volatility of the housing market, decrease in the number of houses available and the increase in costs of building in terms of both labor and materials, making it hard to provide affordable mortgages," she said.
The Lunch-In seeks to raise $150,000 from individuals.
While that won't build one home, it will leverage funds to provide down payments for 15 families, Michelle said.
It will also leverage funds from partners like the City of Spokane Community Block Grant Funds, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines through Banner Bank locally, the Self-Help Home Ownership Opportunity Program Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds, and private foundation grants, as well as individual donors.
Habitat-Spokane raises nearly 70 percent of its support from individual donors at the Hope Builders Virtual Lunch-In and giving throughout the year, Michelle said.
"We rely on the Lunch-In as we launch a heavy construction season," she said.
While it may be more impressive to see family testimonials in person, she said families will share what success for them looks like living in Habitat homes during COVID.
"Many Habitat homeowners have said that while life has been hard, it's been their best year because they live in a safe, decent, affordable home, which is a safe place to teach their children," Michelle said.
"Affordable housing and home ownership are not simple," she pointed out. "There are significant barriers to achieve them."
Three leaders will speak at the Lunch-In. Ezra Eckhart, CEO of STCU, will speak on affordable home ownership. City Council Member Betsy Wilkerson will share her desire to provide more communities opportunities through home ownership, especially communities of color. Vange Ocasio Hochheimer, associate professor of economics at Whitworth University, will talk about upward mobility for low and moderate income families.
Before the shutdown, Habitat built 17 to 22 houses a year, but under lockdown, it built only seven.
"We rely on volunteer labor. It was difficult to keep up construction under shutdown without the hearts and hammers of volunteers," Michelle said. "We are busy trying to build God's kingdom on earth."
While she hopes this may be the last virtual fundraiser, she said Lydia Duffy, chief development officer, and her team have developed the technical skills to produce the event.
They have also produced several pre-event, behind-the-scenes videos.
Habitat-Spokane will email the video links to those who pre-register. Those videos include family testimony, a tour of a Habitat home and a ride in a Habitat truck to pick up donations for the store.
The Lunch-In itself will last under an hour. Last year's event drew nearly 500 and Michelle expects more in 2021 because it is accessible.
"Those attending do not need to find parking or shift schedules. They can watch at noon or at their convenience," she said. "We have seen more give in advance when they register.
"Spokane is a caring community with a strong philanthropic spirit," she said. "They know problems exist, and they want to be part of the solution. Habitat is a beacon of hope and will be needed more when we emerge from the pandemic."
Looking ahead, she said that in the current phases for vaccine access, construction workers are not listed, even though they are essential.
"Before we deploy volunteers, we want to be sure it is safe to do so," Michelle said.
For information, call 534-2552 or visit habitat-spokane.org to register.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, April, 2021