Written by Shana Lewis, Volunteer Coordinator, Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity
As the Volunteer Coordinator here at Greater Indy Habitat, I got the privilege of experiencing my first Habitat National Conference a couple weeks ago. There was a lot to take in between the amazing sessions, meeting new people (there were over 2,000 board members and staff from affiliates across the country that attended), and navigating between the two conference hotels to make it to my sessions on time!
Greater Indy Habitat sent nine staff members from various departments to the conference this year. Jim Morris, President and CEO, presented “Managing the Distance: Success Serving Through Chapters and Outlying Areas” and Andy Duncan, ReStore Development Coordinator, presented “Daunting ReStore Donation? Converting Colossal Connections into Cash.” It was great gaining knowledge from all of the presenters during their sessions!
The theme for this conference was Breaking New Ground. A significant focus of the conference was surrounding the fact that 1 in 6 households in the US pay more than 50% of their income on housing. For comparison, a reasonable, average amount of a household’s income recommended to be spent on housing is 30% or less. Breaking New Ground is centered around Habitat putting a renewed focus on advocating for affordable housing. Breaking new ground means using our collective voices to further Habitat for Humanity’s mission– to create a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
For Greater Indy Habitat, this means taking a step towards educating our volunteers supporters, and partners about the issues surrounding affordable housing. Habitat will continue to be a bipartisan organization focusing on housing, and this certainly does not mean we are jumping into politics. However, it does mean that we see an opportunity to be more vocal about policies that will affect our work to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope.
Greater Indy Habitat continues our focus on education in regards to issues surrounding affordable housing in our communities and neighborhoods. In 2017, The Sagamore Institute completed a 30-Year-Impact Study to analyze Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity’s impact over the last 30 years since our founding in 1987. The research study took a look at how Greater Indy Habitat homeownership has empowered families in achieving strength, stability, and independence. Under the direction of Dr. JoAnna Brown, the Sagamore Institute examined the connection between the ownership of decent and affordable housing and the families’ quality of life.The study revealed that 71% of homeowners started, completed, or plan to complete higher education or professional training since purchasing their Greater Indy Habitat home. This is just one way that Habitat homeownership has benefited our homebuyers. To read up on the study, you can visit https://indyhabitat.org/study/.
This past February, we partnered with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic to host author Matthew Desmond to discuss the hidden housing crisis not only in the US, but right here in Indiana too. (Indianapolis is #2 in evictions in the nation, which is not a statistic to be proud of in our great city.) Matthew was joined by a panel of local experts to discuss the impact of evictions here in Indianapolis and how the community can come together to make a change.
If I had to say one thing that I took away from conference, it’s this: Habitat’s affiliates are truly experts in housing. We see the underlying issues in our work every day. We are in a position to use our collective voice to make a difference, not only for our homeowners but for current renters that may apply for our program as well. There are many ways that affiliates can advocate for affordable housing. It doesn’t have to be a daunting as it sounds for us to start acting.
If you want to be a part of the bigger picture with Greater Indy Habitat please sign up for our enews to stay up to date on the latest Habitat happenings, events, and more.