DU Habitat for Humanity starts strong

By Kailey Love | The Duquesne Duke

More than five million people worldwide have received help from Habitat for Humanity. At Duquesne, a newly founded chapter of the national organization is working hard to add to that number by building houses and raising awareness in Pittsburgh about the plight of the underprivileged.

Founded less than a year ago, Duquesne’s Habitat for Humanity chapter now has more than 60 student members. The group completed a house-building project during the fall semester and is planning a second build in the spring, as well as demonstrations during February about the problems caused by substandard housing.

The group worked quickly during the fall to complete their house project so that the family could move in before Christmas. Chapter president Ashley Weiland was unable to share details on the house or the recipient family, citing privacy concerns, but she said the members of her group enjoyed working with the family to create their new home.

“[The best part of the job] was getting to meet the families we do work for and working alongside them,” Weiland said.

Weiland said the houses built by Habitat groups are paid for through small mortgage payments from the eventual owners, who also work to build the homes. Habitat for Humanity offers those in need zero-equity loans and does not make a profit on any of their houses. The money families pay back over time goes back into local Habitat funds that are used to build more homes.

Even after they are settled in their new home, most recipients go on to volunteer for Habitat and give back to the organization, Weiland said.

As a part of Duquesne’s Founder’s Week in early February, the group will hold a poverty housing simulation to focus attention on the issues that substandard housing poses and how it contributes to the international poverty rate, Weiland said. A study conducted by the University of California Berkeley Health Impact group shows that substandard housing is connected with “an increased risk of disease, crime, social isolation and decreased mental health.”

“It’s not just the fault of the people,” Weiland says. “It’s the fault of the system. Our goal is to educate the community on that.”