In some things, success is evident. You pass a test you've studied long and hard for. Success! Finish a marathon you've trained many months for. Success! Get that promotion you've worked overtime for. Success! But with Habitat for Humanity, success means many different things and it can take years to show itself.
I am often asked about the success rate of Habitat for Humanity. At first I was confused by the question. I headed straight for the Habitat for Humanity International website to find the answer only to learn the answer is unavailable. After all, what is success?
To the Habitat hopeful who turns their application in to the office, completed and signed, on time could be their signal to success.
To the Family Selection Committee member who manages to get through all the completed applications and select that perfect applicant, that may be their success.
To the applicant who is selected to be the next Partner Family, success comes when they hear the words..."Congratulations, you are our next Habitat Partner Family." But then when they are informed of the Sweat Equity hours they must complete or the Homeowner Education hours they must earn they discover they have a whole new benchmark for success.
To the board member or committee member, establishing guidelines and procedures for the betterment of the program is their success.
There are many ways to establish success in a program such as Habitat for Humanity. That being said, I do understand the question when asked. Most times, the inquirer wants to know, how many families fail to make their mortgage payments. How many homes does Habitat foreclose on? How many applicants don't even make it through the program to move into their house?
The answer lies in how we run our program. At North Platte Area Habitat for Humanity we work very closely with the family throughout the process to increase the odds for success.
Partner Families are assigned an Advocate, someone who is with them from the time they are selected to at least one year after dedication. Each Partner Family completes a minimum of 30 hours of homeowner education to prepare them to become homeowners.The Partner Family must complete 400 hours of Sweat Equity, working alongside the volunteers, their friends and their family to build the house. They come to know the volunteers as family and learn what goes into building their home from the inside out. They work along side other Partner Families, people who will become their neighbors, going through the process.
At our affiliate we maintain the mortgages through our office. This gives us many opportunities to touch base with the Partner Families. We hear about difficulties at work, successes they and their children experience, about family issues and also financial issues. We are better able to assist them where they might need assistance because we know what is happening in their lives.
But none of that really measures success, does it?
To me, success came the day a single mom, who had applied three times and denied each time, asked what she needed to do to be accepted. She listened, fixed the problems and came back a fourth time and was finally accepted into the program.
To me, success came the day a Partner Family's son told me he was going to the University to study neurosurgery. A lofty goal to be sure but I have no doubt that "Habitat Kid" will make it.
To me, success comes each and every time we raise the walls to a new house or partner with a group or organization to hang drywall or to paint.
To me, that's how we measure success at Habitat for Humanity...one family at a time.