Tackling homelessness 1 home at a time

According to a report commissioned by the United Way of Johnson County, homelessness and the risk of becoming homeless is a major issue locally; and solving it will require a coordinated effort among a variety of nonprofit agencies.

One of those agencies, Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County, attacks the problem one family at a time.

This spring, Habitat kicked off its second Women Build, a home in Trafalgar a single mother and her daughter will share. The organization expects to bring nearly 200 local woman together to help build the home.

Even before construction started, Karen Mangum could visualize her dream house. She could see flowers and landscaping along the brick walls. The backyard will provide her 12-year-old daughter, Stephanie, a place to set up a trampoline and play. Someday, she would like to fence in the yard, so Stephanie’s dog can run.

Stephanie has even picked out an empty space inside the planned building site, where her own room will finally be.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Stephanie said.

Right now they live in a two-bedroom apartment in Greenwood.

The Mangums will be the most recent recipients of a house built by Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County.

Habitat homes are not free. The owners pay for them through a 20-year no-interest mortgage. In addition, they must take classes on household finances and upkeep and invest 300 hours of “sweat equity” on their own and other Habitat projects.

Sometimes, it still seems too abstract to be real, Mangum said.

“I’m still trying to believe that it’s actually going to happen,” she said. “We’ve thought about it, but it’s hard to picture before there’s a house. We’ll have our own home, that we can make our own. We can plant flowers and trees. We’re looking forward to that.”

While the Habitat project won’t solve the broader issue of homelessness in Johnson County, it will help one family be more secure about the future. We commend the volunteer builders and the companies donating time, expertise and material to make the dream of homeownership come true for one local family.

At issue

Homelessness is a critical issue in Johnson County.

Our point

Habitat for Humanity attacks the problem one home at a time.