Today marked the big day – we finally started the build! Our day began in the hotel conference room with the Sheridan crew proudly sporting our red, white and blue Thrivent shirts. We were greeted by the Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii Executive Director, Patrick Hurney, and Deputy Director, Isobel Donovan. They welcomed us with a small gift, and then we jumped right into the real talk, learning more about the “less than sunny” reality of housing in Hawaii.
Some stunning facts:
- As a state, Hawaii has the costliest housing market in the nation
- It also has the third lowest rate of homeownership
- About 52% of Hawaii’s homeless families include one or more adults who are working full or part-time, but don’t earn enough to find permanent shelter
- Hawaii has an insanely competitive Section 8 affordable housing program
- For the past 10 years, the wait list has actually been completely closed with over 6,000 people still on the list
- For just three days this past August, the wait list program was opened. In just those three days, it is estimated that over 12,000 people applied in hopes of receiving one of the mere 50 vouchers available.
To add some context, the two homes that we are working on will cost approximately $180k-$200k for the land, labor and materials, even though each home will actually be valued at over $450k once the work is complete. That means that instead of working 2 or 3 jobs, commuting hours each day, and scraping to make ends meet on an average rent of $1,800, this program will afford the new home-owners a modest, interest-free mortgage that brings their monthly costs closer to the $500-$600 – nearly a third of what they may have paid for housing in the past. On top of these facts and figures, our group also heard stories of how recent Habitat for Humanity homeowners came from even more humble situations, like living in cars, in tents or on beaches. After learning this, our group was more inspired than ever to make a difference.
When we arrived on the work site which was only about 10 minutes from the condo, we met our Worksite Leader, Tony, two Americorps volunteers, David and Kevin, and the organization’s legendary volunteer – Clyde. This inspiring volunteer builds for approximately 40 hours each week, and has helped on 28 out the 31 homes built on the Big Island thus far. We’re all hoping his know-how and steadfast, serving attitude rubs us off on us!
To kick things off, the team had a chance to walk around the neighborhood for a bit and check out some of the other builds that have recently been completed. The team agreed that the neighborhood we are building in is extremely nice and modern. It has a beautiful, consistent architectural style that will have the future residents of these homes bursting with pride.
Tony, our patient and experienced site leader who has been doing this for 27 years now, started the group on a project for two homes where the families just moved in recently. Although the homes are complete inside, there are still some finishing touches required outside, including framing and pouring cement slabs outside of the patios and garage entry doors. Tony refreshed us on math fundamentals like the Pythagorean Theorem (say that 10 times fast) to make sure our angles were perfect and batter boards were level. The plan for tomorrow is to continue through the framing process, mix and pour the cement, and hopefully get close to completing this project.
As a double bonus to our day, we made yet another Nebraska connection and added another Hawaiian word to our vocabulary. We learned that our Volunteer Coordinator, Auntie Pili, who has lived on the island all her life, married a man all the way from no other than… Nebraska. Over lunch she shared stories about her culture, her Nebraska-born husband (who passed away about 8 years ago), and the funny quirks she recalled from her visits to our state. She also taught us that the word “kolohe” is Hawaiian for “rascal”. This happened to be the nickname she endearingly gave to one of our team members! 🙂 **Bonus points if you can figure which group member received this nickname.
Overall, we are all thankful for the relationships we are starting to build and looking forward to seeing them, as well as our work, continue to blossom over the course of the coming days. We ask that you continue to pray for the group, and ensure that we all maintain the patience to learn, the passion to work tirelessly, and the peace to do whatever tasks are asked of us obediently and safely. God bless!
“Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” – Galatians 6:9
Written by team member, Brie Pinnow