February 27, 2014 | Leave a Comment
For Black History Month, we spoke to Curtis Warren, a homeowner we work with in the Bayview, about his family’s history in the community.
In the 1990s, a local bank was the recipient of criticism and pressure for reported discriminatory practices regarding lending to minorities. After pressure from community groups, including the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce, they launched an effort to specifically help homebuyers of color. Curtis Warren was told he was the only person to successfully buy a home through that program in San Francisco.
“When they told me that story, I cried,” he says. Curtis remembers the exact date he bought his home, May 25, 1997. It’s obviously an important date for him, as he approaches 17 years of living in his home (“being a homeowner gives you leverage,” Curtis tells us), down the block from his mother’s home in the Bayview, where he has lived his entire life.
“I never thought I would be able to buy my own home, but at that time, around when the Dot-com bubble burst, prices really dropped and made it affordable,” he says. “At first, I looked anywhere but San Francisco because I thought it would be too expensive for what the bank approved for my loan.” He calls finding his house a “fluke,” and is grateful to the neighbor who sold it to him—“she did everything possible to sell it to me.”
In addition to staying close to his mother, whom he cares for in her home 10 houses away, this house allowed Curtis to stay in the Bayview, which he values as a historically African American community. He calls it “the last frontier of African Americans in San Francisco”—the city’s black population has dropped by half since the highest recorded population of 96,078 in the 1970 census, to 48,870 in 2010. According to a survey from the San Francisco Planning Department, nearly a quarter of San Francisco’s black residents live in the Bayview.
“The Bayview is the only neighborhood in the city that has room for growth. As the neighborhood started attracting other cultures, I really enjoyed the diversity,” Curtis says. “On the one hand you might not like change, but change is good. I’d rather have something productive in my community than nothing.”
Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco met Curtis through an application he submitted to our partner Rebuilding Together San Francisco for much needed home repairs. “One of the conditions when I bought the house was that I’d have to replace the side stairwell myself. I was a single parent when I bought my house, and as the years go by things got more expensive, so I put off fixing the stairs. It’s safer now and more convenient. This was a blessing for me. The work [Habitat] did was far more than I imagined it would be.” We’ve also completed repairs at Curtis’s mother’s home, which she bought in the 1950s.
“If I can be blessed with this significance of this project, I want other people to share in that—I print the application and try to get my neighbors to apply,” Curtis says. “I filled it out with one person just to get them to participate.”
Curtis’s love and pride for his neighborhood is palpable, as is his advocacy for neighborhood revitalization work. He tells his friends and neighbors about how they can get home repairs through Habitat’s program, or solar panels through PG&E, and how they can work to improve community features and facilities with us. “I was just down at Bayview Park last week, you can really see the change along Armstrong Avenue,” he says. “It’s more open and safe. It’s a really big difference, you can really see it.”
Our Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative works with homeowners like Curtis and community organizations to complete projects that the community identifies—home repairs like Curtis’s stairs, park beautifications like the aforementioned Bayview Park and community facility renovations like the Bayview Opera House and YMCA. We do this to bring the impact homeownership has on the community further into those communities, and we think it’s working. As Curtis says, “the area is changing. It’s changing for the better.”
February 24, 2014 | Leave a Comment
February 24, 2014 marks the start of our 25th anniversary year, on the anniversary of Peninsula Habitat’s incorporation. Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco Executive Director Phillip Kilbridge introduces the celebration of 25 years of building forward.
Today is a day to celebrate.
February 24, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the day Peninsula Habitat for Humanity was incorporated, the first step in our journey to providing homeownership opportunities to working families in this region. Habitat for Humanity San Francisco was founded four years later. These two organizations merged to become today’s Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco in 2008.
At Peninsula Habitat, Habitat San Francisco and Habitat Greater San Francisco, we’ve always had ambitious goals.
In April 2009, shortly after the merger, the Habitat Greater San Francisco staff presented to the board of directors the idea of building a 36-home condominium development in San Mateo County. Do you remember early 2009? The economy was in a steep nose-dive. A project we would have considered audacious even in the best economy faced a range of intense scrutiny: Could we afford this project? Did we have the internal resources and expertise? Could we find the volunteers to build these homes? Could we find families to buy them?
Nearly five years later we can look at our success at 7555 Mission and know the answer to all those questions was “yes.” Now, in 2014, we are asking ourselves a new set of questions about how we can build the 28 homes at Habitat Terrace, how we can start building new homes for the first time in Marin, how we can buy land to build more homes on the Peninsula and how we can deepen our community impact.
Today we celebrate 25 years of building forward. For 25 years, and today, more than ever, we are an organization bent on looking forward to find inventive solutions to our area’s expensive real estate challenges.
We continue to challenge ourselves because we know we’re fully capable of doing more to build homes in Marin, San Francisco and the Peninsula. Just in our recent years, we challenged ourselves when we brought two organizations together to operate more powerfully as one; when we took on building up instead of out at 7555 Mission; when we opened a ReStore in an expensive retail market; when we launched a Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative to expand our impact in the communities in which we build; when, in the midst of a real estate boom, we found a way to purchase market rate land to build 28 new homes in partnership with 28 working families at Habitat Terrace.
For 25 years we’ve been building forward. Over the course of the next year, we’ll be sharing stories with you of how we’ve done that in our 25 year history, how we’re doing that right now and how we’ll continue to do so in the future, with your help. Together, when we invest in our neighbor’s quest to become a homeowner, it strengthens the entire community.
Please join me in celebrating what we’ve accomplished in these 25 years, and what together we’ll accomplish in the years to come.
February 13, 2014 | Leave a Comment
Why I Build is a blog series from Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco community members–volunteers, donors, staff, homeowners and more–about what we do, why we’re here, and why we build. Earlier this month, Karla addressed guests at an event celebrating our newest development, Habitat Terrace, sharing how she got started volunteering in 2005 and what inspires her to continue.
I build because I am fortunate! I serve a God who has blessed me with more than I could ever ask for.
I first began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco in 2005 because I wanted to “give back.” I remember watching a TV commercial where Reba McEntire announced that Whirlpool donated new appliances to every Habitat home. I didn’t know we had a local affiliate so after researching it, I called and signed up to volunteer that same week at the office. That day I overheard someone saying extra help was needed on the construction site and I asked if I could go, even though I had no construction experience. They said “all are welcome” and that Saturday I joined other volunteers on a job site. What a life changing phone call!
Today, I continue to build with Habitat (here in the Bay Area and on international Global Village trips) because I get to work alongside loving homeowners, dedicated construction managers and a team of amazing AmeriCorps, and first-time and returning volunteers who give their time to help build not only homes, but memories and friendships that last a life time. As we build each wall, we share our experiences, our triumph and sometimes even our hardships. We become more than neighbors and friends, we become family.
I think my favorite part of any workday is when a first-time volunteer tells me that they will be back. At that moment, I remember how someone else made my first experience with Habitat so enjoyable that I knew I wanted to come back. His name was John – he was the regular volunteer that I got to work with my first Saturday building homes at Habitat Way in Daly City.
I build because I love people. The great philosopher Lao-Tzu said:
“Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves.’”
And that’s why I am proud to be a regular volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and build with people who love others as much as I do.
January 29, 2014 | Leave a Comment
Why I Build is a blog series from Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco community members–volunteers, donors, staff, homeowners and more–about what we do, why we’re here, and why we build. Cathy, who has volunteered for 15 years doing everywhere from construction sites to the ReStore and next to Vietnam this spring, shares her many reasons and memories for why she builds.
Why do I build? I love seeing who volunteers and how we all figure out how to work together:
-People like me, without special skills but ready to learn.
-Regular volunteers who know how to put in plumbing or ductwork, or drive a nail with only a couple of blows.
-Groups from software companies, banks and law firms, donating their time and getting some team-building done.
-The families who will live in the homes, putting in their down-payment of sweat equity hours.
-AmeriCorps volunteers who get to supervise and train all of us.
Why do I build? I love learning how a house gets put together. These are some of things I’ve done:
-I’ve shoveled, leveled and tied things that you’ll never see once a retaining wall or foundation is finished.
-I’ve cut boards and pounded nails to frame walls. I’ve also helped tilt the walls up and felt relieved when everything fits the way it’s supposed to.
-I’ve installed waterproofing and siding so that rain stays out.
-I’ve painted walls and installed woodwork and floors, keeping in mind that people are going to live where we are working. This motivates me when things get tedious or frustrating!
Why do I build? Because everybody deserves decent housing, and I know how hard people work for it. It’s an honor to build alongside the future homeowners:
-I hear a mother ask people why they have decided to help build her house and tell them how much it will mean to her quadriplegic son to have a safe place to live.
-I hear a woman describe to her future neighbor how crowded their current living arrangement is and how she hopes for a comfortable place for her children to sleep and study.
-I see a photo of the place of honor a family has given to the hard hats they wore throughout the hours spent building their new home–signed by the friends and family who built with them.
Teamwork, curiosity, and a commitment to decent housing for everybody — that’s why I build!
January 10, 2014 | Leave a Comment
We might not be able to help you stop smoking or eat better, but there are a lot of New Year’s resolutions Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco can help with! For some of the most common resolutions (according to USA.gov, a Harris Interactive poll and Time Magazine), your success sticking with it in 2014 means our success as well. Here’s how we can help you achieve your resolutions:
We’re starting our list off with the obvious connection between resolutions and Habitat Greater San Francisco: if you’ve resolved to volunteer in 2014, proceed directly to GO (aka our volunteer registration website).
While you’re out there volunteering on our construction site, you can bet your heart rate will rise and you’ll tone up during a day of hard work, but if you really want to make the commitment to being more active, how about trading your wheels for your feet? Donate any vehicle to us through our Cars for Homes™program and get walking!
Work with the best people while helping the best people—can it get much better than that? We’re hiring now.
These variations on money-related resolutions line up perfectly with our free homebuyer readiness workshops: Understanding Credit, Debt Management and Money & Savings. While these classes are designed with the first-time homebuyer in mind, they’re a good fit and open to anyone looking to learn more about financial literacy.
We work in Marin, San Francisco and the Peninsula—try a volunteer day or site visit in a part of the Bay Area you haven’t been before! Not quite far enough? Look into a Global Village trip—our annual volunteer trip to Vietnam this spring is already full, but learn more about our past trips and other Global Village trips around the world.
…at the ReStore! See how easy it is to remember? The ReStore in San Carlos will help you de-clutter and get organized when you donate your new or gently-used appliances, furniture and home improvement items for us to re-sell to raise money. It’s easy, eco-friendly and feels good. (P.S. it’s just as easy, eco-friendly and fun to shopthere, too!)
Make this an easy one and follow our Twitter stream, where we post news regularly, or challenge yourself to pick up a new skill with an 8-12 week construction internship: you give us your time and hard work, and our awesome construction staff will teach you a marketable skill like plumbing, electrical, HVAC or construction leadership.
A volunteer shift with your friends or family definitely counts as quality time. Get a group together and catch up with the ones you love in a setting unlike any other.
A study from the University of Exeter found that “people who live in urban areas with more green space tend to feel less mental distress and greater life satisfaction than city dwellers who lack nearby parks and gardens.” Our Neighborhood Revitalization Initiativeworks with communities to improve and beautify their green spaces, especially in the Bayview—volunteer to help everyone manage stress better, or just stop by and enjoy a park or garden to chip away at your own!
We’ve given you nine great ideas already, what are you waiting for? Go, do it now!
December 30, 2013 | Leave a Comment
Why I Build is a blog series from Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco community members–volunteers, donors, staff, homeowners and more–about what we do, why we’re here, and why we build. Here, Rieve MacEwen, CEO & Co-Founder of Hatch My House, shares why he decided to help us build with the gift of a custom fundraising tool.
I build because it’s fun.
I have always been excited to work with my hands and watch a project come together from start to finish. There’s something very rewarding about seeing a project get completed, and knowing that you had something to do with it. It’s really unlike anything else. How often do you get to see something get finished that you literally get to look at the rest of your life? I do like baking, but once those cupcakes are finished, they just always disappear!
I build with Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco because it takes the feeling ‘completed’ notion one BIG step further. Not only do I get to see progress with the building I’m taking part in, but I get to see progress being made in families’ lives. It makes my life and their life more complete. The idea of homeownership is very empowering to many people, and so is the feeling of giving. This all makes building easy.
I also build with Habitat Greater San Francisco because they build community. The families you help build units for are there to help, so I get to complete the project together with them. I think that’s a fundamental part of what it means to build a community – being part of a local process that improves the lives of everyone involved and strengthens your relationships with your neighbors.
I give because I know it’s not just my sweat and labor that makes these houses get built. It’s the materials that go into the houses, too. If you don’t know what a joist is – regardless of what it costs or how it got its name – you’ll know what it is when you’ve been on a project, and that someone or a group of people helped purchase it. I like being a part of that group!
I’m also getting involved as a fundraising partner because the power of this program needs to be spread. My three business partners and I at Hatch My House have just completed a pro bono fundraiser site for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco’s new 28 unit development in the Ocean View neighborhood of San Francisco. We invite you to visit the site and give toward the project here.
You’ll encounter representative units of what’s getting built at Habitat Terrace, and you’ll be able to donate directly to this project. You can buy a door, a window, siding – even solar panels – and your contribution will be used by Habitat Greater San Francisco towards these homes. You’ll get to see your donation work toward the virtual completion of this project. Your company or business can get involved with its own fundraising site, too. Just reach out and ask the folks at Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.
So come join me in any way to get involved with these projects and our community. I promise it’s going to make you feel great……and I can’t lift all this lumber by myself!
December 12, 2013 | Leave a Comment
Now that we are well into the giving season, here are a few easy ways that you can support Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco during the last few weeks of the year.
Most importantly, we want to make sure that our community members are well versed in the many opportunities for you to partner with us so that together, we can build even more homes right here in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2014.
From $1 to $100,000, every gift makes an impact here at Habitat Greater SF. Since approximately 87 cents of every dollar is spent on home construction and other program related costs, you can trust that your gift will be spent wisely. Make a donation that is significant to you today to build a better future for a family tomorrow.
Monthly donors are incredible partners with us and contribute in a sustainable and meaningful way. By signing up through our secure online page, your gift-giving can become automated, regular and budget-friendly. We so appreciate all of our donors, and we invite you to join our many monthly donors today!
Ok, so farm equipment might not be the most relevant here in the Bay Area, but the Cars for Homes™ program proves we can accept almost any sort of vehicle, running or not. This is a great time of year to donate your clunker and get that desirable year-end tax deduction. Donate today!
90% of our homes are build through unskilled volunteer labor and we always need more helping hands. Come out and join us at our 28-home construction site in San Francisco, at a park beautification or at a home repair project. Even better, bring your friends, colleagues and family along with you–everything’s more fun in numbers! Learn more and sign up today! Have a specific skill set or service you can share? We are always looking for pro-bono projects as well–maybe you can help with our tech needs or office organization?
We’re building a vibrant and active community on Facebook, Twitter and our website. Share a post, tweet, webpage, email or this blog post with your friends and family to spread the word and encourage them to join you in giving back to your local Habitat for Humanity. Let people know when you donate, when you volunteer or simply when a post resonates with you. See you in the twittersphere and beyond!