Living in an inferior, overcrowded home is not what Jessica Anderson envisioned for herself or her family. Nor was a living paycheck in an endless spiral trying to balance work, bills, and childcare costs.
The Navy veteran and Pinecrest High graduate’s precarious financial situation worsened when their marriage was dissolved and she was given sole custody of their two children. She returned to Moore County, lived in a modest apartment and later with her parents in Aberdeen to save money.
Earlier this year she received news that will change her life forever. Anderson was selected by Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills as a recipient of their Veterans Build project. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall on donated land off US 15-501 between Pinehurst and Carthage.
“Habitat is such an incredible program for people in need who want to do better for their families. Owning my own house will open up so many opportunities for my children and neighbors, ”said Anderson. “I plan to volunteer with Habitat long after my home is finished. The fight is real, I know that. “
The Veterans Guardian project leader will double any donation two-to-one, up to $ 35,000. Founded in Pinehurst by retired Army officers Scott Greenblatt and Williams Taylor, the company provides paid VA pre-filing advisory services to help veterans navigate Veterans Administration claim forms. Veterans Guardian prioritizes the recruitment of veterans and their spouses, as well as active service spouses, and supports a variety of veteran-related concerns.
Veterans Build’s other sponsors include the local section of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), VFW Post 7318, Vietnam Veterans of America, Veteran Motorcycles Club, Knights of Columbus, Jersey Mike’s, J. McLaughlin, VFW Auxiliary and Moore County Veteran’s Service .
Greenblatt said when he was introduced to the Habitat mission at the urging of his friend John Boesch, he realized he had some common misunderstandings.
As a global non-profit housing construction based on Christian principles, Habitat builds energy efficient homes that are sold to families on an interest-free mortgage. As part of the business model, future homeowners – like Jessica Anderson – are required to do 300 hours of “sweat capital” through home ownership courses, work on the construction site, or other volunteer hours at Habitat.
“The more I learned about Habitat, the more I knew I wanted to be a part of it. It’s about raising your hand, not reaching out, ”said Greenblatt.
Greenblatt, along with other local business leaders, contributed some of its own welding capital during Habitat’s CEO Build Day last October in Southern Pines and quickly signed up to be the main sponsor of the Veterans Build project.
“I met Jessica and she is a great young lady. She is not someone looking for a hand. But through this we can help her get her life and that of her family and put her on a better path. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of it and think this will be the first of several builds (sponsorships), ”said Greenblatt. “These things happen because the whole community comes together.”
In addition to new builds, the Habitat subsidiary also coordinates a critical repairs program for Counties of Hoke, Moore and Richmond.
“Veterans are an incredibly proud population. It is important for them to understand our business model that this is not a guide, ”said Amie Fraley, Habitat Executive Director.
The organization recently received $ 30,000 in grants to help address housing shortages for veterans in need.
“Elderly, disabled members of our ward who have served especially want them to know there may be dollars available for critical repairs like building a wheelchair ramp or repairing a roof,” Fraley said. “This is just another part of what we are doing and how we hope to continue to serve our veteran population as best we can.”
The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that 2.5 million veterans who run households are 55 years or older. Of these, 24 percent have housing costs. In addition, older veterans, unlike older civilians, are more likely to have a disability that may require changes to the home or other support services as they age.
Younger veterans like Anderson are also at risk. Nearly half of single mother veterans spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to a report from the National Housing Conference.
“Jessica is the epitome of what we’re looking for. We are looking for (future homeowners) who are at a point in life where they are really passionate about building something great for their families, and we have the honor to join them in this endeavor, ”said Fraley. “At Habitat we can provide a home – that tangible thing that makes you feel like you are moving from a time of challenge to a time of strength.”
The relationship between the homeowner and Habitat is really a partnership, she added: “When we meet people like Jessica, it is really special. She was there from the start and said I was a mom and it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, my struggles, because now that’s my sights and nothing is going to stop me. “
A full house habitat sponsorship costs $ 70,000, but actual construction costs are typically between $ 130 and $ 155,000.
Rising material costs – a national issue for all builders – are a very real challenge. Habitat works with donors and suppliers in the community, Fraley said, in addition to looking for other creative ways to be efficient.
“We have to put in affordability clauses. We never want our homes to be more than 30 percent of a homeowner’s income, ”she said. “It’s been rocky, but we’ve decided that the situation makes it even more important to do what we’re doing. It speaks for the challenge of finding affordable housing.
“The construction freeze is not the right way to go. We are needed more than ever. “