One North Philadelphia woman locked one of her five daughters in her home each day as a fool-proof burglary system. But, after Habitat for Humanity -- a volunteer community revitaliztion program -- installed locks on her doors, the children have been able to resume normal school careers. The 1800 block of Urber Street is the newest site of the extensive home renovation and construction programs conducted by members of the community outreach program. The five-year-old North Central Philadelphia off-shoot of Habitat for Humanity U.S.A., will have built 50 new housing units, four green urban park areas and several new store fronts by the year 2000, directors said. The North Central HFH branch has confronted the nation's housing problem by taking a holistic approach. Instead of building one house at a time in scattered locations around the city, the branch has acquired a six block area in the Temple University campus vicinity. By revamping several buildings and parks in the same area, HFH officials said they hope to rebuild the area's sense of community. "We are not just a bricks and mortar group. We are looking for total community developement," said Ronald Spangler, the executive director of the HFH North Central Philadelphia Divison. "That is why we chose to work in a concentrated area, making sure all areas are covered." HFH determines which families will inhabit the newly refurbished and constructed houses based on need and the family's potential for self-support. This block of five houses drew 680 applications to be reviewed by the family selection committee. Spangler noted that this is typical. After construction is completed, with the families participating in 500 hours of construction work, the families are then financially responsible for the homes. They must pay a zero percent interest mortgage and all residential taxes, but the residents' finances are monitored by HFH for two years. "One guy came in here and asked me for a free house. That is not the way this program works," Spangler said. "You can move anyone into a house. The question is whether or not they will become good home owners." Entering College freshman Alice Kim explained that no prior construction skills are necessary for the volunteers. "Most volunteers are from schools and churches,"said Kim. "About fifty percent of the volunteers are unskilled and about fifty percent are women." Construction manager Steve Panning teaches whatever skills are necessary to complete the building process. There are approximately 4,500 volunteers from the Delaware Valley area. HFH U.S.A., which celebrated its 15th anniversary last week was founded by former President Jimmy Carter and Philanthropist Millard Fuller.Comments powered by Disqus
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