Habitat for Humanity houses Natchez families

Published 12:04 am Friday, December 9, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Future home owner Ericka Johnson watches as concrete is poured for the foundation of her soon-to-be home on Martin Luther King Jr. Street in Natchez on Saturday.

NATCHEZ — Ericka Johnson and her daughter stood by on a cool morning Saturday and watched the foundation of their new lives be poured onto Martin Luther King Jr. Street by a handful of volunteers.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers and workers poured and smoothed the foundation last weekend for the 16th house since the nonprofit started in Natchez nearly two decades ago.

Applicants, like Johnson, must meet three criteria to qualify for a new house, Habitat Treasurer Duncan McFarlane said.

Recipients must be able to make mortgage payments, have the willingness and capability to help build the house and the new house must go to a needy family.

Instead of paying rent each month, Johnson will be a homeowner, paying a mortgage on a house of her own.

“I was very surprised,” Johnson said of learning she was selected for Habitat.

Johnson, a single mother of her 16-year-old daughter and 11-year old son, said becoming a homeowner will provide her family with more stability.

“One of the goals I had set was to become a homeowner,” Johnson said.

Habitat President Andrew Calvit said the organization gives needy families a “hand-up,” not a “hand-out.”

In addition, blighted properties or lots become revitalized and a new house enters the tax rolls, Calvit said.

Each Habitat house, like Johnson’s three-bedroom house, cost $45,000 to build, McFarlane said.

The organization is always in need of monetary donations, volunteers and welcomes new board members.

Volunteers can report to the job site at 1119 Martin Luther King St. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

McFarlane said he welcomes temporary groups of volunteers, but Habitat is especially in need of those who can work regularly, three days a week.

In addition, recipients must put in 250 hours of work on the house for single-parent family and 500 hours for a married-couple family.

“It’s sweat equity,” McFarlane said.

Watching seven men move wooden beams and smooth cement of her new house, Johnson said she was grateful for the volunteers.

“It’s amazing, and I consider it a blessing,” Johnson said.

Monetary donations for Habitat for Humanity can be sent to P.O. Box 100, Natchez, Miss. 39121. For more information call McFarlane at 601-807-4956 or Calvit at 601-445-9051.