Three Buffalo families are spending their Thanksgiving holiday week celebrating their newer, stable homes, built with the assistance of Habitat for Humanity Buffalo.
They are among six families relocated during the state's stay-at-home order, taken from crowded or unsafe conditions.
Habitat for Humanity Buffalo executive director Theresa Bianchi explained Tuesday that while their international organization recommended putting things on hold, they moved forward with their mission, with the support of Albany.
“We had this really awful situation where Habitat International was asking us to stop building. They were asking us to do the right thing. It was to protect our volunteers, it was protect our families," she said. "But our governor said affordable housing was essential, and the staff made the decision that we wanted to keep building.”
They did, but had to do so without their volunteer program, which was suspended for several months out of COVID concerns. It was the first time in 35 years Habitat for Humanity Buffalo did not rely on its volunteers.
Two of the families now reside on Zenner Street while the other family is living on Kilhofer Street. Bianchi explains that all had to put in at least 400 hours of "sweat equity," some form of work, to earn their homes. They'll now be responsible for paying them off.
“You know, it's a big misconception of Habitat, that I hear people say to me all the time, ‘Oh you give houses away to people, give them away to people who don't deserve them or take care of them.’ That is so not true," she said. "We help people buy homes, and have homeownership opportunities. And they work really, really hard to get in those homes and they work really, really hard to keep those homes."