by Cori Lynn Germiquet, Executive Director HFHSC
One night while I was reading online news stories, I came across a piece that stirred in me an overwhelming emotional response. The story was about a man in Clayton Heights, B.C., who was lobbying the local municipal government to have basement suites deemed illegal and to not allow renters in his neighborhood. His words: “They are only renters.”
His complaints were that renters took up too many parking spaces and the local schools were filled to capacity because of these renters. I was gobsmacked by the selfish and irrational thinking this man was showing — and that he was actually taking this position publicly.
Normally, I would have read this story, become irritated and over time have forgotten about this story. But I hope I won’t ever forget this. Over the past several months, I have been meeting with potential Habitat for Humanity partner families. It takes courage for these families to apply. They have to share their life’s circumstances with a small group of folks who will ultimately decide if they are the chosen ones for our two newest homes.
These families inspire me to try my very best for them as they do their very best to provide safe homes for their children. Some of them are survivors of the most unimaginable circumstances. Despite holding down full time jobs, many are forced to endure deplorable living conditions. Some are living in homes where the roofs are caving in; some have no heat, there is asbestos and black mold riddled throughout their homes and rodents keep them awake at night. They don’t complain because they fear eviction if they rock the boat. They are ‘only renters’ and these are their circumstances.
Those of you who know me know I love my job. The hours are long and the workload intense but I love what I do because of the families and their kids. The hardest part of my job is not the building of homes, or the fundraising or the overall management; it is that after meeting with 29 families who all deserve to be Habitat Families we can only help two families each year. That means I cannot help 27 families. That is 27 families who will continue to raise their families in less than stellar conditions. I hope they will reapply for our next two builds. But the problem is, the need will continue to grow and that 27 may become 50 next year.
When I read how this man of privilege was discounting these renters (the ones in the story were single moms) based on what I believe are the most incredulous reasons, I was appalled and ashamed for him.
I hope I never forget this story and the feeling it gave me. It is because of these families that I get up every morning aiming to do my very best in building safe and secure homes so their babies have warm homes to grow up in.