Human touch from housing charity

  • A volunteer from Habitat for Humanity Bermuda refurbishes a resident’s home

    A volunteer from Habitat for Humanity Bermuda refurbishes a resident’s home

Charity Habitat for Humanity Bermuda has celebrated a “record” year for 2017, with a total of 16 homes refurbished for disadvantaged people.

One woman whose house was repaired by the charity told The Royal Gazette: “I get emotional talking about it — I really appreciated what they did for me.”

The woman, who asked not to be named, said she had lost her mother earlier last year and was made redundant last month.

The woman said it had been “one thing after another”.

She added: “I just learnt to leave it in the Lord’s hands, but he has blessed me.”

The woman said a friend suggested she contact Habitat for Humanity after she struggled with her mother’s funeral expenses and the cost of children in college.

She added: “It came out of the blue. They came down here and the work on my roof was done in three days. They painted outside too.”

The woman said she had worried that her home was turning into “the eyesore of the neighbourhood”.

But she added: “Now my house looks really nice. The experience was overwhelming.”

Another beneficiary, a senior too infirm to tackle leaks in his roof, said the unexpected help was “like something that came out of the Bible”.

The 67-year-old knew Habitat superintendent Hewvonnie Brown from their football days and mentioned the roof damage during a casual chat.

The man said: “I didn’t have the money to get it fixed, but a few weeks later, via Habitat, Hewvonnie came to my rescue.

“I thought, wow, this is awesome. I was staying at another of my family’s houses and he told me, ‘don’t worry about it, by the time you come back to St David’s, the work will be done’. “My roof was white as snow and after three years the leaks were gone. Not only that, Hewvonnie gave my house a new colour.

“I thought Habitat was only something they had in America. I was just astounded. They are indeed a wonderful service to seniors. Now my house is secure from the winter weather.”

Habitat for Humanity runs its own local charity, often working with clients of the Coalition for the Protection of Children.

Bermuda’s branch was launched in 2000 by former US president Jimmy Carter, a longstanding backer of the worldwide body.

Sheelagh Cooper, chairwoman of the Coalition, thanked the Pembroke Paint Company for their support in 2017.

Ms Cooper said the programme usually assisted 12 homeowners a year.

She added: “In the past, our projects were geared towards people who owned their homes and couldn’t afford to repair them, and Habitat’s traditional approach would involve repayment for the cost of the work.

“Increasingly, we’ve found that many people couldn’t afford to pay, and many of the people that needed the most help were living in substandard rental homes with landlords either unable or unwilling to properly maintain their properties.”

Ms Cooper said the charity’s top priority jobs involved situations where children’s health was at risk.

She explained typical scenarios involved “a mother with two children and lacking support from the father”.

Ms Cooper said: “There’s a leaking roof, leaking windows, often a door that’s tied with a rope because it doesn’t lock or fit properly, and a lot of issues around asthma with bad floors or old carpets.”

Habitat also deals with referrals from the Coalition, as well as Age Concern and the Salvation Army.

Ms Cooper said: “The Salvation Army do a wonderful job, but Bermuda has no place for homeless mothers and children.

“We have to decide in this country whether it is a right or a privilege to have a roof over your head. I believe that access to safe and adequate housing is a right.

“Yes, we have parents that don’t always make the best choices, but do we make children pay for that? If that’s the case, we will only see a recurring generational cycle of poverty.”

Ms Cooper said repairs to rented homes required a guarantee from the landlord not to raise the rent or move the tenants out.

Teams of at-risk individuals, both male and female, carry out the job and learn a trade in the process, under the supervision of Mr Brown.

Mr Brown said the crew had been joined by “young people who had been in trouble in school — it was like giving them another chance to build things back up”.

He added: “A lot of people aren’t broke when it comes to having the home, but they’re cash broke and can’t afford to fix things.

“It’s just the way things are right now. People are stretched. We don’t do major construction but wbhen people can’t afford to fix things, they look for our help.

“It’s sad when someone calls and there are cracks in the roof, major holes, and it’s raining. You know everything’s going to get ruined.

“It’s not a handout, but we do target some of the places that are in immediate need.

“It has been a humbling experience for me, to see how many people in Bermuda are in need.”

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Published Jan 3, 2018 at 12:01 am (Updated Jan 3, 2018 at 4:55 pm)

Human touch from housing charity

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