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Habitat for Humanity's First Island Neighborhood

Habitat for Humanity’s first neighborhood on Hilton Head Island, The Glen off Marshland Road is a major boon for families who cannot afford housing. Hilton Head Monthly sat down with Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity’s president, Patricia Wirth, to discuss the community milestone.

Question: Is homelessness a problem for an island known for magnificent beachfront homes, golf courses and gated communities?  

Answer: Homelessness is a real problem amidst the beauty of the Lowcountry. Families without permanent places to live might spend some time with relatives and friends, sleeping on the couch or the floor, or they might live in their cars. People with no shelter at all live outdoors. At our last New Family Orientation, which is the only place where we distribute applications, there were 379 people in attendance. We had 10 houses available.

Q: How did The Glen neighborhood come to be?

A: The Glen is a result of a 14-acre land donation by the Town of Hilton Head Island. We paid for the infrastructure through local fundraising, including several large gifts from Habitat supporters. Our volunteers come from all parts of the community, and that diversity is part of the strength of Habitat worldwide. Our founder, Millard Fuller, was fond of talking about the “Theology of the Hammer,” meaning that working together to strengthen families strengthens the community as a whole and brings people together.

Q: Where else have you built homes locally? 

A: We built three houses on individual lots. Later, we built on land donated in Bluffton and Jasper County for a total of 92 houses.

Q: What qualifies a family for a Habitat’s dwelling?  

A: We ask three questions of all applicants: 

  1. Do you need a simple, decent, affordable place to live? To ensure that applicants do need a simple, decent place to live, we make homes visits to all applicants. Applicants must provide information from their landlords regarding the amount of rent they pay each month. To be considered affordable, rent should be no more than 35 percent of the applicant’s income.
  2. Can you pay a mortgage? Applicants must make between 30 percent to 60 percent of the area’s median income. This means that a local family of four can make no more than $40,440 annually to qualify.
  3. Are you willing to partner? Every family in the Habitat program must agree to perform between 300 to 400 hours of sweat equity, helping to build their own houses and those of their neighbors.

Q: How do you prepare the families for homeownership?   

A: In addition to performing sweat equity, each family is required to attend 20 hours of classes on homeownership, focusing primarily on fiscal issues such as budgeting.

Q: President Jimmy Carter is probably the face of Habitat, correct?

A: President and Mrs. Carter are Habitat’s most visible volunteers and have helped Habitat immeasurably by setting a standard that we follow. They encouraged people from all over the U.S. to become involved in Habitat’s mission.