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Habitat accepting applications

When Gerri Norman was turned down by Habitat for Humanity the first time she applied for assistance, she didn’t give up.

“My exact words were, ‘That’s OK, someone else that needs it more than I do got it. God has something better for me,’” Norman said this week.

Soon, the Habitat Builders Blitz in the Huntersville neighborhood was coming up, and the organization contacted Norman to ask her to reapply.

“I was a little hesitant, because the first time I was so excited,” Norman said. “But I’m a Habitat family member now.”

Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads — which builds homes at low cost through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials and then sells them to qualifying low-income families financed with affordable, no-interest loans — is accepting applications through Jan. 31 for its next round of qualifications.

“It’s to break the cycle of poverty and give families a stable environment,” said Sheila Bogott, communications director for Habitat South Hampton Roads. “We find that families, once they’re in the home, achieve stabilization, and opportunities for better education and better jobs.”

Norman, the Habitat homeowner, was raising her great-niece and great-nephew in crowded conditions when she applied to Habitat. The process brought her a new family, she says — the people at Habitat and the people in her neighborhood.

“It truly, truly is a blessing,” Norman said. “I just love it.”

A common misconception of Habitat for Humanity is that the houses are given away free. Nothing could be further from the truth, Norman said.

“It’s not free. You work for it and you qualify for it, and you have to be able to pay the mortgage,” Norman said. “It’s not a given.”

Not only do Norman, her mother and the children now have a safe, stable place to live, but Norman also has been elected president of the Huntersville Civic League.

“That’s been a blessing too,” Norman said. “I’m in the neighborhood. I’m part of the neighborhood.”

Three main criteria are considered in the application, Bogott said. The need for adequate shelter — whether because of a dangerous neighborhood, a neglectful landlord, crowded conditions or other reasons — is considered. There are income limits — families must be considered low-income, based on family size, but still able to pay the mortgage. Finally, families must show a willingness to partner with Habitat for Humanity to do their “sweat equity,” helping build their own and others’ homes for between 250-400 hours, depending on family size. In addition, families must have lived in South Hampton Roads for at least one year.

Families who get past the initial stage undergo background searches, interviews and home visits.

“Because we are the mortgage holder, we want to make sure we’re taking suitable families,” Bogott said.

Eligibility forms can be downloaded from the organization’s Web site at www.shrhabitat.org, or picked up at the Habitat office at 900 Tidewater Drive, Norfolk, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A number of required documents, as well as the processing fee of $12 to $24, are due with the application. Call 640-0590 for more information.

People interested in making a donation of money or services should call 640-0590.