The holidays are an especially poignant time for people in new Habitat homes

Hannah Edwards, Community Outreach Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Key West and Lower Florida Keys, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about their projects.

Being in a Habitat home for the holidays is an incredibly poignant experience.

Edwards said, “We have had five new families move into their Habitat homes this past fiscal year. So this will be their first Christmas in their new homes and I know they’re super excited. There’s 10 children in those homes who are anticipating Santa so I think it’s going to be really, really special for them. You know that first holiday in the new home is always really special.”

Repairs are also being done through Habitat for Humanity.

Edwards said, “We also did 19 repairs. Those are critical home repairs for low income households in the city of Key West and that usually involves repairs focused on safety and accessibility. So it can be anything from a roof to grab bars and accessible bathrooms. Anything that makes their home more safe and more accessible.”

Critical repairs in Key West has been thanks to financial assistance from the city. Habitat was hoping to expand that into the lower Florida Keys and it looks like that’s going to happen.

Edwards said, “We are really grateful to have some funding that just came in. We got $100,000 from Publix, which was really awesome. We also got $15,000, from the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and we got $20,000 from the Knight Foundation. So we’re really excited to be able to use all of that funding to expand our critical repair program into the county, which has been a missing component that we were really looking to fill. So now we will be able to help low income households make these critical repairs everywhere from Stock Island through Big Pine as well. That will be really, really good.”

The Walk on White in Key West benefited nonprofit organizations like Habitat.

Edwards said, “It was really fun. We were there last night. We had a booth set up in the southwest parking lot. There was a singer right next to us. She was amazing. It was such a fun evening. It was very festive. We had some holiday cocktails, we had a spin wheel for the kids, which I made, which they really loved. It was really fun. Each landing spot on the spin wheel, they had to do something and then they got a prize. So it was anything from act like your favorite animal to do 10 jumping jacks to say something nice. The kids really enjoyed it. Great holiday vibe. We saw the folks that decorate their Jeeps drove by. It was a fun evening and we were able to get awareness for Habitat, raise a little bit of money. What a what a fun evening.”

There were 45 applications for the four new homes about to be constructed by Habitat.

Edwards said, “It’s not an easy task because there are so many deserving families out there. We did it a little differently this year. We had a pre qualification form. That window was open for people to fill out for about three weeks. Then that assessed their income level and their family size and from there I could kind of see whose income level fit our program, whose family size would fit these homes and we were able to say okay, either yes, go ahead, proceed with the full application or your income and family size don’t fit these homes. So that was helpful because that way people didn’t have to go through all the work of filling out that full application if they knew they weren’t a fit for the program. Then we had 45 of the 108 went on to fill out the full application. So now we are going to go through all of those materials and we have a committee that then does home visits, and they rank the applicants based on our three categories. Our three categories are their need for the housing, where are they living now? Is where they’re living now, are they paying a lot more than they can afford? Is it unsafe? Is it overcrowded? Is their landlord about to sell the house they’re living in? All of those elements go into it. So that’s one category is the need. The next category is their ability to pay. So this means they are in the right income bracket that we serve. They have steady employment or a steady paycheck, so that they can be able to make their mortgage payments. Then the third category is their willingness to partner. So that means that they know that there is a sweat equity component to this, to our program. So they know they’re going to be doing actual work on their homes, on their neighbor’s homes and volunteering in the community and that they are prepared and willing to do that and that they know what Habitat’s about and they’re willing to be a part of this community. They want to be a part of this community. So those are kind of the three categories that the committee will evaluate the applicants on, and then the committee makes their evaluation, they black out the names and then the final decision goes to our board of directors. They see the evaluation, they see the numbers, they don’t see any names, and they make that final call. It’s quite a process.”

After those four homes are constructed, there will be eight more built in Big Pine.

Edwards said, “So hopefully, some of the families that don’t get into these four are able to apply for the eight that we have in Big Pine. After Big Pine, we are hoping to move down to Bahama Village and do a couple of homes there. So we really have a lot in the works. This is our end of the year and we are really relying on the help of everybody in this community to keep helping us with our work. We’re so grateful for everyone that does. I just wanted to say Happy Holidays to everybody.”

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