Charities Build Houses Quicker With Less Labor

Some disaster relief agencies say volunteers are hard to come by these days. Skilled volunteers are even harder to find. That's why the Harrison County Long Term Recovery Coalition went looking for a way to build more quickly with less labor.

Annie James was amazed that her new house, as well as the house of another Gulfport family, could all be on one truck.

"Two homes on that truck. It's just unreal," said James.

A coalition of non-profits struggling to find enough volunteers came up with an idea to hire an Amish construction company. Building experts in Pennsylvania construct the walls and roof, ship everything down in pieces, and let volunteers do the rest.

Martha Lee Bohn of the Presbytery of Mississippi said, "it's like putting together the pieces of the puzzle."

Volunteers hope to put together 15 houses before Christmas.

"Many volunteers know how to do the sheet rock or carpentry, but if you ask them, 'Here's the wood, frame up a house,' that's very intimidating," said Bohn.

She added, "Last year when we did stick built, meaning when took the wood and put it together it was nine days to put a house up. And today we will see from the foundation to walls going up. It's today, by tomorrow. Day and a half."

Now that 10 agencies have learned to work with and trust one another, everyone is ready to move forward together.

Lori West is the director of International Relief Development.

"We do case management and we do it to the best of our ability and we do it well. The funders speak for themselves. And the construction crew, Mississippi Presbyterians, we find that they are the best construction crews, so there's no reason for each organization to try to do it all. We pull together in our own specialties or what we do and collaborate for one mission. "

Annie James says she's glad for the help.

"I've had my cry," she said. "I'm so so blessed and thankful for all that has come together."

Officials say the price tag for framing a house using pre-constructing materials is the same as site built, but the volunteers can do the work in a day and a half, as opposed to nine days.