The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Housing the homeless


Nestled in the heart of Bryan is a neighborhood termed Angel Gate– an area of widespread, low-income homes. What’s unique about this community is that these series of homes were by built by Habitat for Humanity as a way to relieve families living in substandard conditions. On July 16, the organization will continue to expand Angel Gate by starting the construction process on their 200th home.
Jason Davies, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, said a substandard home is a home that is dilapidated to the point in which it is no longer considered a safe living environment for residents.
“Typically the home is falling apart–roofs caving in, floors caving in, rodents having free reign — is all considered substandard. It also means over crowding,” Davies said. “When you have a family of six people living in a one bedroom apartment, children can’t study, a family cant grow and prosper.”
Currently there are 3,000 homes in College Station that are considered to be substandard.
Another problem Habitat tries to eliminate is moving residents away from dangerous and sometimes violent neighborhoods, including drugs and gang violence.
“We’ve had families before who have lived in neighborhoods where literally police shootouts would happen next door,” Davies said.
In order to acquire a home, applicants have to apply 500 hours of sweat-equity geared toward volunteer work, complete 12 weeks of workshop classes, and at the end of completion they are eligible to purchase the home, typically through a no interest rate loan. These requirements are something Davies said stays true to the organization’s motto, which states, “we’re not a handout, we’re a hand up.”
“When [the homeowners] partner with us, we want to make sure that they are dedicated to building safe, decent homes,” Davies said.
Colton Moreland, president of Aggie Habitat, Texas A&M’s chapter affiliate, recalls a time when he helped build a house during the spring semester — a moment that stuck with him because of one woman’s admirable dedication.
“This year the homeowner we partnered with was named Vanessa who had two little girls and a little boy. There were many times when she would be out with the group every weekend — not because she was required to– but because she was so committed,” Moreland said. “It’s just really special to see that there’s not a distant relationship between volunteer and homeowner, and that you get to see the kids in the neighborhood, know they’re safe, happy, and don’t have to worry which is a very rewarding feeling; it’s a truly remarkable experience.”
Aggie Habitat, which started in 1992, is an organization that works to provide funds and volunteers for homes through annual fundraisers including the fall Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser and spring Shack-a-Thon Fundraiser.
Last year members provided more than 2500 hours of volunteer service, and this year will mark the 14th home the organization will raise funds for building said Dave Oyler, vice president for Aggie Habitat.
“I’ve always been the type of person that really likes being able to help people,” Oyler said. “Aggie Habitat was the first organization where I got to do that and build personal relationships, especially when you get to go to the houses and meet the people who are going to be the future homeowners.”
Davies said for the 200th build-a-home project, the organization is encouraging everyone to sign up, volunteer and “start swinging that hammer,” especially Texas A&M students who know the value of hard work.
“We take a big bulk of our volunteers from the university,” Davies said. “One of the best things I love about Texas A&M is how they instill service learning in their students — working at a nonprofit you see that first hand. The mass amount of people who come and volunteer their time is amazing.”

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