After reading a few posts on here about HFH i wanted to tell my experience with this organization.
In the summer of 2003 my family was urged by a friend who lives in New Jersey to find a local Habitat for Humanity office and apply for a home! After going to our counties HFH website I decided to give it a try. We were living in a small mobile home in a nice town in this county. The mobile home needed some repairs but was not in that bad of shape. Our problem was space. We had 4 children and they were crammed in this small mobile home. We applied for the HFH home in August of 2003 and were notified in January of 2004 that we had been selected for a home. Our home was built in August 2004 during a blitz where 3 other HFH were built.
Our home was built in a very economically poor neighborhood filled with drug dealers, prostitutes, vagrants and child molesters. When we were notified of being chosen we were told to drive by our home site and see if we would like to live here. Now some back ground my husband has lived in Monroe County his whole life but not in this city and had little knowledge of this city because the city he lived in it was closer to go to Ohio (Toledo) to shop, get gas, etc. I had only lived in Monroe County for 2 yrs in the area where my husband was raised. I had no knowledge of the city of Monroe. When we drove by we saw that the some of the houses were run down but didn't think alot of it. How could we know what we were getting into after driving by in January. we would soon learn that January and June in this neighborhood were very different.
I realized we had made a horrible mistake on the day we moved in. my family and I were eating our first meal outside at our new picnic table. When a car pulled up and a man got out squatted down as not to be seen and began talking to us. He told us he was from Michigan State Police and was part of their drug enforcement and asked if they could place cameras in our home. I enquired as to why? He told me that my neighbors were well know drug dealers. I was horrified. What had i gotten myself into. myself and another woman who Habitat built a house for the same year questioned the Director at a meeting about the neighborhood . Her response was I would never put you guys in a place i wouldn't live in myself.
I fought the effects of the neighborhood daily. I had 3 boys who i feared would be influenced. I didn't sit around and watch the activity around me I did all I could to change the area. Joined groups, chased drug dealers off my property,neighborhood watch anything i could do. And I made sure my house was always looked great as to be an assest to the neighborhood. Alot of the older people in the neighborhood praised what I did. But it was a losing battle. My house was vandalized. One of my children were beaten up several times one time so bad he had to be rushed to the hospital. My home was broken into. I had death threats. I ended up with an anxiety disorder on meds I was a mess.
I got no support from HFH just that no one else seemed to have problems. Finally, I went and spoke to other HFH owners and found it wasn't all sunshine like was portrayed by the HFH director. Many of them wanted out but couldnt they were stuck couldn't afford to live anywhere else etc.
Finally I gave up. we sold our home back to HFH in September of 2007, and that was a nightmare also. The only money we got back was the principal amount paid for the years we lived there. We had put thousands in upgrades and they paid us for none of it. Central air, wood flooring, Fence, landscaping etc. They gave us no option kind of take it or leave it.
So we took it and at closing the Director sat there with this cold look on her face that I have seen all too often from her she had a board member with her. He asked about why we were selling back I explain and he looks all confused at her and says I wasn't made aware of any of that . She in so many words said we didnt try to fit in. I was so mad! At the closing yet another shocker. they only gave us a portion of our money holding back several thousand until we vacated which was to be in 10 days. They convinced us this was standard.
10 days later we vacated gave the keys to HFH and awaited the return of the rest of our money. It never came instead we got a letter telling us they were not returning our money and an itemized list of things that they say totaled the full amount due to us. as we read the charges we were furious. several hundred dollars for dirt to fill in small area where there was a hole. The dirt to this day sits in the driveway of this home most unused. They charged us for taking our dishwasher we payed for, we were charged for a dumpster funny there was nothing left in the house and only left over shingles left in the shed that they put there during out build.
I found out later from a HFH homeowner that the dumpster was taken to her home for her to use for trash she had piled up. We were charged for a repair to a latch on the gate (we put up and payed for and were never compensated for). They power washed our sidewalks and charged us for it (what a joke) our sidewalks were new and cleaner then most of the neighborhood. The list goes on and on. Needless to say we never saw a penny of what was left.
We are hurt that a organization who prides itself on its christian views would treat us in such a manner. We were very active in this chapter after our house was built both my husband and I joined committees, spoke at fundraisers I was a family partner for 3 yrs etc. oddly enough other then one other homeowner out of dozens we were the only ones who did volunteer. Which I found strange until I got to know the people at this specific chapter.
I am not in anyway against what HFH does. I believe that in most chapters they do give people a hand up. I have worked with other chapters in the past and have not encountered what I did at the Monroe Chapter. They are more concerned with the number of houses built they can achieve then the safety and well being of the people they are placing in these bad areas.
So in closing my experience with HFH Monroe Chapter was NOT " a hand up but, a slap in the face instead!