Families wanted for Habitat homes in Orillia

Two Orillia families will receive homes through Habitat for Humanity's Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project. Pictured is Britta Gerwin, director of development and communications, Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North, at 499 Bay St., where the new homes will be built this summer. MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES

Two Orillia families will soon be able to build a better future for themselves.

Funds for Habitat for Humanity, coming through the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project, which is sponsoring 150 homes in Canada for its sesquicentennial, will help build a duplex on 499 Bay Street this summer.

To initiate the process, the non-profit is hosting a community conversation (public session) June 20 at 5:30 p.m. at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.

"We'll have donors and the opportunity to sign up for people who would like to volunteer, and people who would like to look into the family selection process," said Britta Gerwin, director of development and communications, Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North, adding that any kind of help from food donations to in-kind donations to finances are welcome.

But what she mostly wants out of the information session is to engage the community in understanding what Habitat projects are all about.

"There is miscommunication that the houses are given away," said Gerwin. "We don't. We partner with the families, and there is a mortgage that fluctuates with the family's income to make sure they can afford it."

As well, she said, the family puts in 500 hours of sweat equity, which can be completed through participating in the build or by volunteering at the ReStore.

"Families who partner with us, a lot of times are isolated because some of them have been in social housing or have been busy working hard just to try to get money together for a down payment," said Gerwin.

And it's these conditions that sometimes prevent families from responding to application packages that are sent out by the local selection committee, said Margaret Phillips, chair of family selection committee.

"People know that there is a lot of personal information in there, and they have to open their finances and lives to us," she said, adding committee members are always willing to help in acquiring all documents required to complete the application process."And that is very difficult for a lot of people."

Some criteria for families to apply for a house through Habitat for Humanity include being a Canadian citizens or having refugee status, being two-year residents of Simcoe County, as well as a willingness to partner with Habitat. Financial eligibility is determined based on number of family members and total family income, said Phillips.

Despite hesitation from families, said Gerwin, they are encouraged to look at the future and the benefits of having a secure home and being part of the build. It gives the occupants a chance to re-engage in society as productive and effective members, she added.

For more information, contact Gerwin 705-646-0106 ext. 205 or via email at bgerwin@habitatgatewaynorth.com. For more on Habitat for Humanity, visit habitatgatewaynorth.com.