A Story of Impact: Habitat for Humanity

6/10/15 by Maddie Hansen

​Habitat for Humanity helps families in Minnesota, and across the globe, make the dream of homeownership a reality through creating simple, decent, affordable housing. In addition to providing a roof overhead, Habitat homeownership gives homeowners and families so much more. I’ve had the privilege – first as a Habitat volunteer and now as an outside evaluator – of helping document the extent to which Habitat impacts their homeowners.

Quality of Life Impacts

In 2011, as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota, the state support organization for Minnesota’s 31 Habitat affiliates, I worked on developing a pilot study examining how Habitat homeownership impacts homeowners’ health, education, social connectedness, family interactions, personal well-being, economic situation, and feelings of safety. In my year there, I helped look into these different quality-of-life areas, and was deeply moved by the pilot data and the incredible stories of how homeownership changes lives.

Stories of the family now paying a tenth of their previous heat bill, giving them time to spend together instead of worrying about how to fix their drafty and unsafe home. Stories of a mom who moved with her son 15 times in 14 years and, once settled into her Habitat home, found her home and the stability so meaningful that she got married in the backyard. Stories of the person who, after building his house with community members, got connected to the community and ended up in charge of the local Economic Development Authority, on the school board, and as the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce. Stories of the mom who was jobless and homeless, relying on numerous government assistance programs, and who, after Habitat, became completely financially independent, had all of her children off at college, and went back to school for master’s degree courses.

Everyone who works for Habitat has their own story of a homeowner whose life has been positively impacted by homeownership, but previously there were no numbers and data to provide a broader context for those personal accounts.

Data Supports Stories

About a year and a half after the pilot study, Wilder Research was contracted to do a statewide survey of Habitat homeowners to provide this context, and I found myself as a new Wilder employee, again working to tell the story of Habitat. Now we have the first full statewide data to show the impact Habitat has on their Minnesota families. Some of the highlights include:

  • 90% of homeowners feel safe in their homes and 80% feel safer and feel their children are safer than they were previously
  • Over half said their children’s grades improved, and over 90% of households have one adult who has started, completed, or plans to start higher education or training programs
  • 80% feel more connected to their community
  • 90% feel better about themselves, reporting less stress, embarrassment, or shame and more freedom, independence, stability, pride and happiness

Overall, 92 percent of respondents said their lives are better, and 88 percent said they attribute that change either “a lot” or “completely” to Habitat. That data tell a powerful story of impact. Now we have both the data and the personal accounts to share the full story of Habitat’s work across the state, and what an incredible story to share.