During my first week of home construction in North East Central Durham, I saw the rental house next door to our build site officially condemned. The irresponsible landlord had neglected more than 20 safety violations. The family renting this unsafe house was left with no place to go just as I was helping a family start the process of homeownership.  

I am moved by Durham Habitat’s efforts to help, by the incredible number of homes quickly constructed in this neighborhood, and how those new homes are affecting the area. In response to Mayor Bell’s call for a war on poverty, Durham Habitat focused building efforts, both new and rehab construction, in North East Central Durham, where more than 20 homes have been built by and sold to low-income families.
Annaul Report
Durham Habitat’s impact revitalizing neighborhoods in fiscal year 2015. See the full annual report info graphic at www.durhamhabitat.org/financial. 

I believe that our ability to respond this way is largely due to AmeriCorps crew leaders. When I joined Durham Habitat’s AmeriCorps, I was assigned to work with a site supervisor who was half-way through a home build. With the training he provided and a constant flow of amazing Habitat volunteers, I was able to begin a home construction project of my own a few houses down. With my help, he was able to start a third house while subcontractors did the electrical work on the first house. Since we then had three homes underway at once, we could be extremely efficient, trading off volunteer build days among the sites. This week my supervisor will take on yet another house, and I will finish off the previous sites. I’m proud to be a part of this powerful capacity building.

AmeriCorps

Durham Habitat’s 2015-2016 AmeriCorps team. From left to right: Josh Quinlan, Will Leimenstoll, Paul Sullivan, Billy Dee, Billy Pennington, and Roy Blumfeld.

About a month ago a friendly man dropped by to ask how the construction was going. As I was running up and down a ladder, helping volunteers install lighting, I chatted with him. I learned that his house, right across the street, was one of the first five homes built by Durham Habitat almost 30 years ago.


Wall raising

Josh led these volunteers in raising walls at the Hospitality House in NECD. This home stands as a symbol of inclusivity built in honor of Bishop Bob Johnson, who encouraged his community to be welcoming and inclusive.
 

That conversation put Habitat into perspective for me. It showed me not only what a long-term investment Habitat homes are for our partner families, but also how our organization’s capacity has grown so much over the years from one or two homes a year to 20 a year.

It is amazing to see and be a part of a neighborhood being revitalized. I see how happy homeowners are to be here, and would love to live here myself. We are addressing real issues and helping people build and purchase homes that they will be happily living in 30 years from now.

I invite you to be part of the revitalization too – join me in 2016.

Josh Quinlan is AmeriCorps crew leader at Durham Habitat for Humanity, www.durhamhabitat.org.