By Lori Henricksen
Special to The PREVIEW
Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County would like to thank the generous members of our community who have offered a hand up to our fellow citizens in need of immediate assistance during this challenging time.
As we transition to the “Safer at Home” phase of Colorado’s response to the effects of COVID-19, we also look ahead to the importance of the recovery and resiliency phase, which includes helping families obtain access to safe, stable and affordable housing.
Affordable housing is an essential service for Archuleta County. The people who make Archuleta County a safe, healthy and thriving community — service, hospitality, school and municipal workers — need affordable housing. Affordable homeownership creates families who are vested in our community, have a decreased reliance on public assistance and whose children are more likely to do better in school. Homeowners are better prepared, both economically and socially, to survive an unforeseen crisis like COVID-19.
Habitat Archuleta will continue to build and improve homes even as funding for long-term housing has been diverted to more immediate needs resulting from the pandemic. We’ve been building homes in Archuleta County for 26 years and will begin construction on our 28th home in June, a month later than anticipated.
Our 2020 Partner Family (Dad works for the school district) has been preparing for homeownership since last fall by completing homeowner education classes and obtaining an affordable mortgage. They will build their own home alongside volunteers who understand they are doing more than filling a onetime need — they are helping a family help themselves in building a better future.
We will continue to build with volunteers, although most likely without the assistance of Care-A-Vanners, Habitat for Humanity volunteers that travel throughout the country building homes. Last year, 53 volunteers from all over the country helped build our Partner home and added “volun-tourism” dollars to our economy as they stayed and played in our community.
Habitat Archuleta’s greatest need in building this year’s home is for local volunteers. We appreciate all of our long-time local volunteers and supporting businesses, however, we need more people to join us. We encourage volunteers with any or no experience. If you’re new to swinging a hammer, we’ll teach you the skills. And if you’re experienced, we’ll have plenty of construction stories to share.
If you are able to join us on the construction site, we will be doing things a little differently to ensure everyone’s safety. Precautions will include providing space for social distancing, wearing masks and having plenty of sanitizers for hands and tools. We will follow guidance from Habitat International and national, state and local public health authorities to ensure a safe working environment. These precautions do add to our building costs, but are necessary and worthwhile to protect our volunteers, staff and supporting businesses. Habitat Archuleta does not receive funding from Habitat International; we rely on our own fundraising, so donations of any amount are always appreciated.
We have many other volunteer opportunities in addition to new home construction — preparing lunches for the building crews, assisting with repair projects, planning events, fundraising and outreach for partner families for our future builds.
As we begin construction on this year’s home, we are also seeking future homeowners for our 2021 new home build, as well as current homeowners who are struggling to keep their home in good repair. We qualify Partner Families based on need, ability to pay and willingness to partner.
If you or someone you know is interested in one of our programs, please contact Lori Henricksen, executive director, at 264-6960 or Director@HabitatArchuleta.org. You can also sign up for our email newsletter at Info@HabitatArchuleta.org or visit HabitatArchuleta.org for application and volunteer forms, online donations and more information.
Things may not be what they were, but they will get better. Habitat Archuleta will be here to advocate for safe, affordable housing in Archuleta County. How we build is changing, but what we build remains the same: a strong foundation for a family. Your time, your voice and your financial support will help bring strength, stability and independence to Archuleta County families in need of a decent place to live.