Habitat Opening New Bay-Waveland Chapter

Habitat for Humanity is building a stronger commitment to Hancock County. The home building group is about to open its first chapter to serve Bay St Louis and Waveland.

Twenty-one months after Katrina, affordable housing remains the number one priority in the area, and Habitat wants to help fill the housing gap.

Since Katrina, Habitat for Humanity has built 31 homes in Hancock County. It's an impressive showing for a group that relies on volunteers and donations to help people in need become homeowners.

"What you're trying to do is to get successful homeowners. That's a real challenge here because of your desire to get everybody out of trailers," Helen Boone with Habitat of Jackson said.

Boone's Habitat chapter has 20 years of experience building homes. She and director Cindy Griffin are helping the Hancock County community set up its own Habitat chapter to meet the need for affordable homes.

"The very first component of this task force is to work with the family selection area. Because that's what Habitat is all about. We're more than building houses, we're about building communities and working with families. So this is an education process for this task force to learn how we go about applying and approving families into the Habitat building program," Griffin said.

Wendy McDonald is the Project Manager of the Hancock County Habitat chapter. It will be her job to organize volunteers, donations and the building projects.

"We're so grateful to Jackson for taking us in, but you have to live here to understand the people here and the choices we make," McDonald said.

"Communities raise their own money for the Habitat construction when they are built. So it's important for our community to start to understand what direction we need to go to sustain ourselves. If we get more money, we can build more houses."

There are 850 families on the waiting list hoping to qualify for a Habitat Home. And with the guidance of other Habitat members, the Hancock County chapter hopes to build 1,000 new homes within the next five years.