Connecting students to the trades: The Guilford High School Build

Guilford students, Representatives from Rockford Public Schools, Habitat leaders, and Tammy, the owner of the 2022 Guilford House gathered to dedicate the home.

Carmen grew up watching her dad work as a car mechanic. She would go with him and watch and learn as he fixed cars. Carmen quickly discovered that she loved learning how things work, as well as working with her hands to build or repair things.

By the time she began high school, she started looking for classes that lined up with these interests. There were no car-related mechanics classes, but she did hear about another option that sounded intriguing: a construction class in which students built an entire house. And the more she considered it, the more she wanted to give it a try.

“As a woman, I want to know how to build stuff. That way when I get my own house, or if I want to build my own house, I’ll know the basics of it,” Carmen said. 

Carmen working in the house during construction class.

Rockford Public Schools has been partnering with Habitat a handful of years now to provide students like Carmen with a unique hands-on learning experience, and to empower local Habitat homebuyers on their journey to homeownership. This year, Guilford High School students worked on their seventh Habitat home, and East High School students built their second home. 

Carmen is now a Senior at Guilford High School. This was her second year in construction classes, and her first year actually building a house. She described how this year, she and classmates showed up day after day, in the rain, snow and wind, to build the home. She said that some of the skills she enjoyed learning were hanging drywall, installing windows, and (her personal favorite) using a nailgun. 

“It’s kind of scary at first, but it’s pretty fun,” she said with a smile. 

As she reflects on all that she learned this year, Carmen feels confident in her construction abilities. 

“I pretty much do know how to build a house for myself,” she said, also describing how she feels equipped to make home repairs and upkeep. 

These practical skills will also translate into a career for Carmen. She is interested in going to trade school or getting an engineering degree, and her experience in her construction classes is invaluable. 

“It gets me ready for my future,” she said. 

Though as a freshman, it would have been hard for Carmen to picture building an entire home, she feels very proud as a senior. 

“Wow. I’ve made big moves, you know?” Carmen said. 

It’s taken a ton of work to be a part of these courses, but for Carmen, every minute held value. 

“It’s totally worth it,” she said. “It’s worth it because you get to know people— I love my crew. And we’re providing for another family and helping the community out, and it feels good.”

“I recommend [this course]  if you want to learn something about yourself, build a house, and make memories,” she said.

O’Ryan is one of Carmen’s classmates. He’s a Junior at Guilford High School, and he’s been taking construction classes for three years. 

“Freshman year, I started learning measurements and doing a bit of shop work back at the school. Sophomore year, we started building walls for this house, and we learned a lot of skills doing that. And now junior year, we’re building a house,” he said. 

Similar to Carmen, O’Ryan also considers these courses to be stepping stones toward his future. He’s fairly certain he want to work in construction.

“I like working with my hands. This class is going to help me in so many ways to try to get into a trade out of high school,” he said. “[This opportunity] helps people with problem-solving, teamwork, and working with eachother. Like I said, it helps with building your skills a lot and helps you get a good job by getting you into the union and the trades.”

O’Ryan joked that that the most difficult part of construction class is trying to hit a stud, but he had far more to say about what he loved about the course. He absolutely loves working with his classmates, having fun, and laughing with them.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned is working as a team. You can’t really build a whole house by yourself– you have to work with each other, problem solve with each  other. This is a lot of teamwork,” he said. The results of that teamwork are incredibly rewarding. 

“In my head I’m just like, ‘we really just built that’. It warms my heart that we know that we did a lot of work in this house. We put a lot of time into it, and made it everything that it’s supposed to be,” O’Ryan said. 

O’Ryan standing in the house that he helped build.

Mark Anderson, the construction teacher at Guilford High School, said that even though the pandemic had a large effect on these students, they have been incredibly resilient and ready to rise to the challenge of building a house. Before learning on the build site, a handful of students had never even used tools because they had taken their introductory classes online. Many students have even realized that they love construction more than they thought they would. 

For many students, the gratification of working on something so tangible becomes motivating in a very different way from the traditional classroom setting. 

“If they see what they did, and it’s good, and they keep moving, then they kind of quickly build their self-confidence. If you’re in a classroom, they don’t see that until they’re out of high school, or even out of college a lot of times,” Mark said. 

Mark shared that for awhile there has been a desire in Rockford to bring back the trades and help young people grow in their connection to the trades. As the partnership between Habitat and Rockford Public Schools has grown over time, students now have a resource and a path to be able to make this goal a reality. 

“For a lot of [my students], this gives them a reason to come to school. For some of them, this is the only class they enjoy. For a few of them, it’s going to be their future, so it’s preparing them for something for the rest of their life in a way that schools don’t normally do,” Mark said. 

Last week, the completion of the 2022 Guilford and East builds were recognized with two dedication ceremonies. Students from each build, teachers, Habitat volunteers, and even some Habitat homebuyers gathered together to admire the students’ work and celebrate this amazing milestone. The good that comes from this partnership is visible and tangible. In the words of Mark Anderson: 

“I see the good in this program every day.”

Quilting with Purpose: The Saint Mark Sew and Sews

This story is written in memory of Donna Lind, a longtime member of the Sew and Sews who passed away in 2021.

Chris, Nancy L., and Nancy E.

About four years ago, women from St. Mark Lutheran Church started a group to make quilts for local nonprofits to distribute to the individuals and families that they serve. Since then, they have donated handmade quilts to Rock House Kids, Mosaic and Remedies. One year they gave 35 quilts to Rockford Rescue Mission. They’ve partnered with Habitat every year by making quilts for every single member of Habitat’s partner families. These women call their group the Sew and Sews, and they use their love for sewing and quilting to impact the community in incredibly meaningful ways. We had the chance to sit down and talk with a few members of the Sew and Sews about what they do and why.

For Nancy Leonard, sewing and quilting have been a part of her life for a long time.

“My grandmother and my mother were both sewers and quilters, so I grew up in the quilting world. But I never did a single solitary quilt until I joined here,” she said. She enjoys using her talents to care for others in her community.

“I have been blessed throughout my life, and it’s my way of giving back. I’m a retired home care nurse, and I have been in homes where there has been very little,” she said. “So when I see this going to people than can use it, that’s what it’s all about.”

Nancy Eckburg shares a similar connection to sewing—she’s even passed along her passion for sewing to her granddaughters.

“I have always loved to sew. I always wanted to learn to sew. I would take my doll to my grandma, and she would make a full outfit for my doll,” she said, smiling as she remembered. “I sewed all the way through high school. I had 4H and HomeEc, and then when I was in nursing school I kept sewing when I had time. I even taught for awhile at JoAnn Fabrics. I just love sewing, and I taught my granddaughters to sew on a machine.”

Chris Allen’s involvement in the Sew and Sews started with a t-shirt quilt.

“I call my sister-in-law the quilting queen. She’s the one that taught me how to do everything. I sewed in high school—I used to make clothes,” she said. She took a break from sewing for awhile, until she wanted to make a t-shirt quilt for her son.

“My sister-in-law was quilting, so she helped me, and then I just kind of fell in love with it. It’s just a way to give. Doing something I like to do, and still being able to help people out,” Chris said.

Nancy presenting Tracey, a Habitat homebuyer, with quilts at Tracey’s home dedication in 2021.

There’s about seven members of the Sew and Sews, and together they’ve made custom quilts for somewhere around 20 Habitat home dedications. Depending on the complexity of the design, one quilt can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to complete, which means that the Sew and Sews have given literally hundreds—even thousands– of hours toward making quilts for Habitat homebuyers and their families.

We truly cannot thank the Sew and Sews enough for their ongoing dedication to Habitat and its mission. We also want to remember and celebrate Donna Lind, who passed away in September of 2021. Donna was involved in the Sew and Sews since the group began and was always passionate about teaching and sharing her love for sewing and quilting with others. She was dedicated to serving her community, and her legacy will continue to impact many lives in countless ways.

To learn more or get involved with the Sew and Sews, please contact us and we will connect you with the group. They meet twice a month, and all are welcome to attend meetings and help with quilting at any time.

Homeowner Spotlight: Jamecka & Shondale

In 2005, Shondale would ride past the same house over and over on his bike. He was 12 years old, and he was scoping out where his soon-to-be best friend and crush, Jamecka, lived. Shondale’s family had just bought their home from Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity a few blocks from where Jamecka’s mom had bought a house from Habitat three years earlier. 

Twenty years later, Shondale is back to riding past a house over and over – only this time, Jamecka’s by his side, and they’re scoping out the house that will soon be their family’s home. 

Jamecka and Shondale – who have been together since they met as kids and neighbors – decided to apply for Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity’s home-buying program in 2019 after seeing so many family members and friends go through the buying process with Habitat.  Growing up in safe, stable houses that their families owned, Jamecka and Shondale say they have always felt highly motivated to become homeowners themselves. They saw from a young age the undeniable value of having something to invest in, the value of being in charge of your own space. The couple– who have two daughters, 10 and 2 years old– decided to become homeowners because they wanted to give their girls the same sense of stability and safety that they had as kids. 

“We want everything for them,” says Jamecka, “that’s why we’re doing this.” 

At ten years old, their older daughter is the same age now that Jamecka was when her mom bought her house. Jamecka says she knows how much her own mom’s accomplishments motivated her, and she is proud to be in a position to provide that same example. Jamecka says their oldest is already talking about buying her own house someday once she is a famous musician. Until then, she’ll settle for painting her new bedroom yellow. 

As for her Jamecka and Shondale, they are looking forward to building a fence, putting in a fire pit, and generally making their yard a gathering place and oasis. 

The house that the couple is rehabbing and getting ready to buy is a cute, three-bedroom ranch with sage green siding. It is located right in between both of their childhood homes, where their parents still live. They say that in many ways, it feels meant to be to end up so close to the homes they loved as kids, the homes that brought them together as a couple, the homes that made so much in their lives possible. 

In their new home, Jamecka and Shondale are envisioning a place of growth and success, but more than anything, they see a place of happiness. “We already have our little family,” Shondale says. “This house will be our castle.” 

Staff Spotlight: Bryan

Bryan is our ReStore Director, which means he oversees everything that goes on at the store, supports our staff team, and implements plans to help the store grow and flourish.

“How I think of it is that I am the glue that helps keep everything together,” Bryan said. “I’m basically here to bring everybody together in one common goal.”

Before joining our team, Bryan wasn’t familiar with the ReStore.

“I didn’t really know what the store was until I came in for my first interview, and I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “I love going to work and feeling like I have a purpose and I’m making the world a better place.”

There are several elements of his job that Bryan appreciates and enjoys. He said that from the beginning, he felt welcomed by everyone on the ReStore team. He also loves organization, and he enjoys getting to see parts of the store become more cleaned up and organized.

“It’s nice to get a whole department or section looking good,” he said. “That’s a physical representation of your hard work.”

Bryan’s work is also driven by a passion for Habitat’s mission.

“I love the overall mission of getting affordable housing to people, and helping people buy things for their homes—that’s what we’re here for. And we keep so much out of the landfills.”

When Bryan isn’t working at the ReStore, he’s spending time with his family, playing computer games, or hanging out with his two dogs, Gizmo and Crypto. In Bryan’s word’s, “My two children have four legs, and I love them to death. They’re everything to me.”

We are so grateful for Bryan and the positivity, energy, and joy that he brings to the ReStore team. Thank you for being a part of the Habitat family, Bryan!

Small Steps, Big Impacts: Conclusion to our Housing & the Environment Series

By Caitlyn Baylor, Homeowner Services & Grants Director

Source: Vox’s article “The Best Way to Reduce your Personal Carbon Emissions: Don’t Be Rich

Over the last couple of months, we have shared a series of blog posts about the relationship between the climate crisis and the housing crisis, or conversely, between climate justice and housing justice. The two phenomena are increasingly, inextricably connected, and we have learned that locally, nationally, and globally, we have a lot of work to do to mitigate the climate crisis from disproportionately impacting those already most vulnerable, particularly in their housing. 

The good news is, we are nothing at Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity if not solution-oriented! Whenever our DEI (Diversity, equity and inclusion) discussion group examines systemic inequities, we always like to end the conversation by asking: What can we do? What actions can we take, however small?

So bear with me, but I’m going to step onto a soap box about some of the ways that we, as individuals, can reduce our carbon footprints, bearing in mind that environmental issues are very much human issues and even housing issues.

Despite the fact that most of us grew up learning about recycling and energy efficient lightbulbs, these are actually far from the most impactful actions we can take as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint. Do they help? Sure they do! But, to be frank, they are really not giving any of us an environmental halo.

Besides more significant choices that not everyone is likely to make— like having smaller families or not driving a gasoline-fueled car— the most impactful things we can do personally are 1) avoid air travel as much as possible, 2) find alternatives to driving like biking and carpooling when possible and 3) adopting a plant-based diet.

Air travel

This was a surprise to me, but one of the worst things we can do in terms of generating carbon emissions is travel by plane, especially on longer or transatlantic trips. Climate specialists suggest avoiding air travel whenever we can. Air travel is not a decision we should ever make lightly— it is an activity limited to the most privileged of global citizens and has a tremendous impact on the planet for everyone— yet most of us book flights without a second thought to the broader impact. Eliminating one flight per year can reduce your individual carbon footprint by 1.68 tons of CO2 or CO2 equivalent.

One option when you have no choice but to fly is to purchase a certified carbon offset through a company like Terapass. Purchasing carbon offsets is a great option for those work or emergency trips you just can’t avoid.  

How we get around

Flying isn’t the only mode of transportation that has a huge impact on the environment. Changing our reliance on gasoline-fueled cars can also have a huge impact on our personal carbon footprint. The most impactful thing we can do that’s car-related is cut our ties with a gas-fueled vehicle all together, but for those of us who can’t afford an electric car, we can still do our best to carpool when possible, bike or walk for shorter trips, and generally be more efficient with our outings and even with our driving – experts say slower starts and stops and lower air conditioning can save lot of gas over a year!

What we eat

Buying local food is great for your local suppliers, and it does reduce the carbon footprint of food transportation, but believe it or not, what you eat is a lot more important in terms of carbon impact than where it comes from. A majority of food-related emissions happen during production, not transportation. The worst foods for carbon emission are red meats. Adopting a plant-based diet goes a tremendously long way in improving your personal carbon footprint. Even starting small by reducing your animal-based food consumption can help.

These are just three of the higher-impact actions we can all work on taking. Other achievable and impactful actions include making our homes more efficient and even improving our cookware so it’s the most efficient size for our burners! Who would have thought?! At the end of his final speech, I Have Been to the Mountaintop, Martin Luther King reflects that if he could choose any time in history to live, he would choose the present time in which he lived, despite its tremendous challenges and racial injustices, because living at that time positioned him to be a part of the solution. Those of us alive today are among the first generations to really understand manmade climate change, and we are also the last generations who can halt it. While the gravity of that statement is daunting, the fact that we each have the agency to contribute to the solution is also gratifying. And to the extent that we are concerned about global housing justice, human rights issues, and overlapping inequities, it is essential.

A Tribute to Daniel Nielsen

Daniel Nielsen lived an extraordinarily rich life, and his legacy will continue to impact countless individuals for many years to come. He passed away in November of 2021, surrounded by his loved ones. He was kind, hardworking, smart, and committed to building others up. His memory lives on through his friends and family, and in honor of his passion for Habitat for Humanity, in 2022, Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity’s Community Build will be dedicated to him.

Daniel grew up in Rockford. He was the youngest in his family, and his parents, John and Lisa, said that even at a young age, he loved connecting with others. As a child he enjoyed nature, building his toy train tracks for hours, learning about the weather and watching the weather channel. John and Lisa said that as he grew up, he was a wonderful student, a hard worker, and a great athlete—he swam and played tennis. His grandparents and siblings were also strong influences in his life. “We all raised him,” John and Lisa said.

“Daniel brought positive energy to everything he did. He loved life and loved meeting new people. He had an adventurous spirit that drove him to many new places, in the U.S. and abroad. He was unafraid to try new things,” John reflected. “He brought happiness and peace to all those who knew him. He always tried to see things from the other person’s perspective. This gave him great insight, understanding and acceptance. He was very thoughtful and enjoyed helping others. He was goofy and had a fun sense of humor. He could always put a smile on your face and put you at ease.”

“Daniel was a silly guy. He was always happy, with a sparkle in his eyes, and a smile on his face,” Lisa said. “He was a great listener…He was also just very wise, almost wise beyond his years. You’ve heard the saying ‘he was an old soul’—that’s what I think of when I think of Daniel.”

Daniel’s life was marked by his love for others and his ability to bring people together.

In Lisa’s words, “Daniel built and was surrounded by such a wonderful community of people. He looked forward to meeting, learning about, and spending time with others who came from all walks of life. He was an engaging, kind, genuine, person that liked to help others… He had this positivity about him, and he was a bright light. People were drawn to him.”

“He was a very good leader,” John added. “Very humble. He definitely never thought that he was better than the people that he was around. And I think he just tried to make people around him feel good…I think Daniel had an exemplary character. And I think that was based on the love that so many people had for him. So many people had a connection to Daniel, and I think that’s kind of what made Daniel who he is. And he reflected it back.”

When Daniel went to college at the University of Alabama, he became involved with the Center for Service and Leadership as a freshman, which is where he met Abigail, his girlfriend. This organization is dedicated to volunteerism on campus and engaging with the Tuscaloosa community. Under the umbrella of the Center for Service and Leadership, there are a variety of groups that students are segmented into, including a collegiate chapter of Habitat for Humanity. During their freshman year, Daniel and Abigail were selected to be team leaders for the following year (their sophomore year).

“From the beginning, that just set the course for the rest of our college careers,” Abigail said. “It was very clear how special this organization and this team was.”

For his junior and senior years, Daniel was elected president of the Habitat chapter.

“I think those two years just really changed his life in the best possible way,” Abigail said. “He just dedicated himself to making sure students were being educated on the purpose of and how meaningful this organization was.”

She described how Daniel spent his Fridays and Saturdays building on Habitat construction sites, driving other student volunteers back and forth from the builds in the Habitat van, and spending 20 hours a week in the Habitat for Humanity office.

“That first year was just developing the leadership skills to make his presence known, to make our presence known as a chapter. And he did such a great job,” Abigail said. “Senior year, it was almost magnified even more. He had learned how to be a leader, and that entire year, he genuinely dedicated every single day to Habitat.”

By this time, Daniel was connected to countless people on his campus, as well as others connected to Habitat Tuscaloosa and the Tuscaloosa community.

“Not only was he working 20 hours a week in the office and going to all of the build sites, but he was also working with a group of marketing students to make this entire fundraising campaign for [a Habitat homebuyer],” Abigail said. “He dedicated that entire year to fundraising money to build her home.”

The homebuyer’s house had been severely damaged by the 2011 tornadoes that came through Tuscaloosa. The water pipes in her home were leaking so significantly that the home was beyond repair. The homebuyer and her son were both living in the space, and it was no longer a sustainable or adequate housing solution.

Daniel led the charge to raise the money for a new home for this homebuyer and her son. One of the biggest events that he and the Habitat campus chapter helped to coordinate and plan was a community crawfish boil. They involved local coffee shops and the local brewery, and the Tuscaloosa community gathered for the event.

“I think that just shows the level of commitment, and his character, to bring that many people together to raise money for her home,” Abigail said. “And it was an amazing event. So many people showed up.”

By the end of the year, Daniel’s mission was completed—with the help of the community, there were enough funds raised to cover the cost of the new home.

“Someone has a home because of him,” Abigail said.

When it came time to unveil the homebuyer’s new home, Daniel and the other students got to be there, which Abigail said was a truly wonderful moment.

“When [the Habitat homeowner] was notified of [Daniel’s] passing, [she] wrote this really moving letter talking about how throughout her life, she had faced adversities of truly being seen and heard, and then here comes this 21-year-old, making it his mission to not only make her feel seen and heard, but to make her feel loved and supported by her community,” Abigail said. “And I just think that’s very moving.”

Abigail said that when Daniel began his graduate studies, he paused his involvement with Habitat because it was time for new students to step in.

“He said, ‘being away from [Habitat] for only six months has showed me the true value of this organization and all of the good it brings to people, and I can’t wait to be a part of it in my next chapter,’” she said.

Daniel’s passion for fighting housing insecurity and making it possible for more individuals and families to have safe, affordable homes is what led John and Lisa to continue to support their local Habitat in Rockford.

“It just made so much sense,” John said. “It’s a wonderful program providing a lot of things for people. It’s something that’s easy to get behind and support.”

Daniel’s life and legacy will never be forgotten, and on behalf of all of us at Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity, we are honored to dedicate the 2022 Community Build to him. The name of the house built by community volunteer groups this year will be The Daniel Nielsen Memorial Build.

Because of Daniel, more individuals and families will have homes to call their own.

“I think some of his best characteristics were that he was so community-driven, and he was the most compassionate person. And I think those two things make the biggest impact,” Abigail reflected. “He would always say, ‘everyone deserves a home.’ And it’s true.”

Volunteers at a build day in memory of Daniel

Homeowner Spotlight: Felisa

In 2021, a Habitat homeowner retired and moved out of her Habitat home. She decided to sell her house back to us so that someone else could have the opportunity to become a homeowner. As of Friday, Felisa is the proud owner of that very house!

Felisa said that she started thinking about buying a home back in 2012. She applied to Habitat’s homeownership opportunity in 2019, and though she said that at first it was a little scary to move toward her goal, she’s so excited to now have a place to call her own.

“The process has been great. It’s been exciting for me,” she said. “I’m ready to take the step of being a homeowner,” Felisa said.

After Habitat bought back the house from the previous owner, Felisa and her husband, along with a handful of volunteers and Habitat staff, had the chance to rehab the house so that they could personalize it to fit their style and needs. Felisa said that they worked at their own pace to complete projects around the house.

“It’s been a fun experience. I’m excited,” she said. “The more I’m working on it, it’s starting to feel like home.”

One of the aspects of her home that Felisa is especially excited for is having the chance to decorate and truly make it her own. She’s been collecting ideas for home DIY projects for a while.

“Every time I go to the house, I always think about how I’m going to decorate,” she said.

Felisa also said that her family is very excited about their new home. She got married recently (in August of 2021), and she, her husband, and her two kids will be moving in soon.

“[The home] will impact them because it’s something that is theirs. Even after I leave this world, it’s something that they can still call home,” she said. “I’m just thankful… Because of this house, I can give my family security.”

We are so excited for this new chapter of Felisa’s life. Congratulations on reaching this milestone, Felisa—we’re so grateful that you are a part of the Habitat family.

Staff Spotlight: Simeo

Simeo is one of the receiving clerks at our donation dock. He has been a part of our team since November. His role consists of accepting donations at our donation drop-off, making sure items are clean and working properly, pricing items, and helping to move items out to the sales floor.

Simeo learned about the ReStore through his mother, Ericka, who is one of our cashiers.

“What I love about the ReStore is that we have reasonable prices, we have quality stuff, and even before I was working here, the people and the crew members were nice and helpful,” Simeo said.

In addition to enjoying the store itself, Simeo also enjoys his specific role at the store.

“I like completing a task and helping other people,” he said.

A fun fact about Simeo is that he enjoys photography. He started out by taking photos of flowers in the garden at his mom’s house, and he still takes a lot of scenic and floral photographs. He recently started a photography business called Simply Amazing Imagery, which he is excited about (If you’re interested in contacting Simeo to learn about his photography work, you can reach him at

Simeo also has two daughters that he loves spending time with.

“I’m usually with my kids, and right now they’re in sports, so that’s really fun,” he said.  “My oldest daughter is nine, and she’s playing basketball, and my youngest daughter is six, she does cheerleading.”

Simeo, we’re so grateful for you, and we’re glad that you’re a part of our team!

Staff Spotlight: Adam

Adam has been one of the ReStore truck drivers for around 5 months, which means that he assists with donation pick-ups, works on the donation drop-off dock, and helps move ReStore merchandise out to the sales floor.

One of Adam’s favorite parts of his job is assisting ReStore donors.

“It makes them happy, and I really appreciate that,” he said. He also said he enjoys working with the rest of the ReStore staff team.

Before working at the store, he was a ReStore shopper.

“I used to come to the store quite a bit,” he said. “Then I saw that they needed a truck driver, so I figured I’d give it a shot.”

We always like to ask employees to share one interesting fact about themselves for these spotlight stories, and Adam shared that he is hearing impaired. He said that he isn’t fully deaf, but that he has been hearing impaired his entire life.

When Adam isn’t at the ReStore, he enjoys working on cars, doing projects around the house, and fixing things.

We are so thankful that Adam is a part of our team, and we appreciate his hard work each and every day!

Habitat International’s Position on Climate Change: Part 3 of Our Housing & the Environment Series

So far in our series on the overlap between housing justice and environmental justice, we explored emerging disparities in access to energy-efficient housing as well as disparities in the urban heat environment that have been cemented by decades of development patterns informed by discriminatory policies. These examples of interwoven issues highlight that, as a housing organization, it is important that we recognize the impact that the planet has on our work while also recognizing the impact that our work has on the planet. 

Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity is one affiliate of a broad network of organizations working in over 70 countries under the umbrella of Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). In our third and penultimate installment of our environmental series, we want to share a broader look at the perspective of Habitat for Humanity International on climate change and the way it impacts the global vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Here is their powerful position piece:

If you are unable to read the whole thing, here is a synthesis of HFHI’s position:

Put simply, the global housing crisis is being grossly exacerbated by the unprecedented global climate crisis, as those most vulnerable in their housing are also those most vulnerable to natural disasters and other impacts of climate crisis. 

But ironically, at the same time, HFHI also acknowledges that buildings and the development of housing exacerbate climate change. Buildings and their development make up nearly 40% of global carbon emissions. 

“In this context, Habitat for Humanity International has the potential to impact — and be impacted by — the future of climate change. We believe that adequate and affordable housing can be built sustainably and will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all of the United Nations member states in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

With this in mind, HFHI is committing throughout the world to build using local resources, to build using sustainable resources, to build housing that is energy efficient, and also to keep items out of landfills by facilitating their reuse. HFHI is also committing to engage even more with global policy advocacy, recognizing that gains made in increasing adequate and affordable housing throughout the world are quickly being reversed by climate change. 

“As part of all this work, we emphasize equity and inclusion to ensure that the most vulnerable members of a community are integrated in defining the housing needs and realizing solutions for their communities. With these resources, those communities can prioritize their own housing needs, disaster preparedness and climate adaptability for a more sustainable future…Our commitments are rooted in our pledge to be accountable to the families with whom we partner and the communities we serve, to be courageous and do what is right even when it is difficult, and to be humble in understanding that we cannot win this fight alone. These are the values on which our organization is built. Just as families must adapt to a changing climate, so too must our programming and operations evolve in order to address the housing needs of people around the world.”