Giving Back: Hernando-DeSoto Habitat for Humanity

Giving Back: Hernando-DeSoto Habitat for Humanity

The Habitat for Humanity Hernando - DeSoto is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, an international organization that partners with individuals in communities around the world to help them build or improve a place they can call home. Founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat for Humanity works in communities across all 50 states and in 70 countries. Habitat DeSoto started in 1992 and completed its first home in 1994. Since that time, Habitat DeSoto has helped 28 families with the completion of 28 homes. The most recent home was completed in December. The first mortgage from 1994 was paid off in 2014. Habitat DeSoto has never skipped a year of building at least one home, even completing two a few times.


Board President Lee Ashcraft said Habitat DeSoto works hard to stay in touch with its families through the years, from the time they become homebuyers. “We want them to feel free to call us if they have concerns with homes as far as home maintenance,” he said. “Most of them haven’t been homeowners before.” Habitat DeSoto reaches out to potential homebuyers who don’t typically qualify for traditional lending. Habitat DeSoto looks at a few areas when it decides who among its applicants it will choose to build a home for in the fall.


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The first is the applicant’s current housing needs such as if they live in substandard housing or if overcrowding is a problem, or maybe they have a handicap need that isn’t fulfilled in their current situation. The second area is financial need. Habitat DeSoto doesn’t look for applicants with perfect credit scores, but they do look for someone with good trends in their financial history. The third area is a willingness to partner in the process. Habitat expects all of its homeowners to put in work toward the construction of their home, specifically a minimum of 300 sweat equity hours either by the applicant or extended family.


The application process takes six to eight months as Habitat DeSoto filters through everyone and makes a thoughtful choice. Ashcraft stresses that homes aren’t free. No government assistance is involved. “These are folks who got it on their own merit and pay a 20-year mortgage,” Ashcraft said. That sweat equity is an important aspect of the process. But it also takes donations and a lot of volunteer hours to make the homeownership dream a reality. The national average cost of a Habitat house is around $85,000.


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The construction phase is typically three or so months. Habitat DeSoto doesn’t start work on a house until the family is identified and the build occurs according to their need. It starts work after Labor Day, spending Saturdays in the fall until the house is completed. Individuals and groups are encouraged to participate in home builds, whether that’s by choosing one Saturday or several.


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Habitat DeSoto’s largest fundraiser takes place in October with the Homerun for Habitat 5K and fall festival on Oct. 20 at Snowden Grove Park in Southaven. In addition to the event, donations are always welcome and can be made at Volunteer opportunities also are available on the website. The building schedule will be posted online, and builds typically take place on Saturdays starting at 8 a.m. and going until mid-afternoon.

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