There’s No Place Like Home
Atlas Roofing Partners With Habitat For Humanity In SavannahAngie Lewis, Writer
Miriam Smalls, a single mother of three in Savannah, GA, is about to become a homeowner thanks to Habitat for Humanity. Her new house was constructed as part of a partnership between Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity, the Home Builders Association of Greater Savannah and vendors, such as Atlas Roofing.
The Smalls’ home was one of three new houses built by Habitat’s Savannah affiliate between mid-May and mid-July as part of a home-building “blitz.” While it can typically take up to six months to put up one house, a blitz build allows more homes to be finished in a shorter period of time because more builders, vendors and volunteers are involved all at once.
Smalls, who works at a well-known restaurant in downtown Savannah, was scheduled to move her family into its new home in September.
The hospitality and tourism industry is the largest employer in Savannah, says Harold Tessendorf, executive director of Coastal Empire, but it doesn’t necessarily pay enough to put home ownership within reach for many families.
Coastal Empire takes applications from families who earn between 25 and 60 percent of the area’s median income — between $15,600 and $36,000 per year for a family of four. The affiliate’s policy requires potential homeowners to contribute 350 hours of sweat equity toward the construction of their homes, as well as other homes in the program.
In addition, they must take homebuyer education classes to help ensure their long-term success. Habitat is not a giveaway program, however. New homeowners purchase their homes from the organization for an affordable mortgage.
Atlas Roofing provided 40 squares of Atlas Pinnacle® Pristine shingles featuring Scotchgard™ Protector in Pristine Black for the Smalls’ home. Contractor Jason Lee requested the donation and works with Homes of Integrity Construction and Sticky Limb Construction, both of which participated in the Savannah blitz build.
Since its founding in 1983, Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity has helped 140 families move into homes and build new lives. But the need for affordable housing in Savannah is still great. Coastal Empire has a waiting list of eight approved families, with 60 to 100 more wanting information each time applications become available online.
“Because of our community’s economic growth, the cost of housing is going up much faster than wages, so we have an affordable housing problem in Chatham County,” Tessendorf explains.
Of the eight approved families on Coastal Empire’s waiting list, three are in public housing and the other five are living with family and friends, which he says illustrates the need for housing and how expensive it is to rent in their community.
Making A Difference
Established in 1976, Habitat for Humanity International works in 70 countries — including nearly 1,400 communities across the United States — and has helped more than 9 million people achieve stability, independence and strength through decent, safe and affordable shelter.
Tessendorf has been involved with Habitat for Humanity since 2001. He first learned about the organization when he and his family were working in Mozambique, Africa.
“What attracted me to Habitat was that it has the strong faith component,” he says. “It’s about putting our faith into action without being a for-profit group. It’s also about creating an opportunity for people to own a home, which is so critical for families to be healthy, for better educational outcomes, and it helps break the cycle of poverty. For me, it’s about the long-term change and transformation that happens in people’s lives — that inspires me a great deal.”
For information about Pinnacle® Pristine or other Atlas shingles, visit the Atlas Roofing website. To learn more about the work of Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity, visit HabitatSavannah.org. Plus, check out some interior construction photos of the Savannah Habitat house on Coastal Empire’s Facebook page.