With $1 million in hand from Hobby Lobby, shingles from Malarkey Roofing Products and donations from others, Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity is ready to rebuild when the tornado homeless are.
More than a month after the start of destruction — in Moore and south Oklahoma City — Central Oklahoma Habitat has yet to hear from an applicant who lost a home, said Chairman and CEO Ann Felton Gilliland.
The charity homebuilder, which has buyers help with construction and sells the houses with interest-free loans, wants to help those who were uninsured or underinsured.
In all, 1,307 houses were destroyed by in the Oklahoma City area by tornadoes between May 18 and June 2, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. Another 1,506 homes in nine counties were damaged.
It can take quite awhile for people who have lost a home to decide what to do, Felton Gilliland said, and there's no rush.
“We're waiting for the smoke to clear. People are waiting for their insurance ,” she said.
The first builds for tornado victims, she said, will be “blitz builds,” taking just a few weeks to construct.
Janis Dozier, Central Oklahoma Habitat's administrator of family services, said details of financial assistance are being worked out. It gets complicated when federal assistance is available, she said.
Habitat's usual process also has to be tweaked when dealing with people whose homes were leveled, or so severely damaged they were razed. Habitat itself has helped take down 40 damaged houses with a new donated front-end loader.
Among other things, selection committee members can't make site visits, which usually are an important way to determine need — if, for example, a Habitat applicant is living in cramped, shoddy or unsafe, rented quarters.
“Ann's pretty anxious for us to get some applications in,” Dozier said, noting that tornado-related applications will be considered by special called board meetings rather than through the usual, lengthier process.
Central Oklahoma Habitat built 60 houses after the May 3, 1999, tornado — in Moore, Oklahoma City, Bridge Creek and as far away as Mulhall — and plans at least as many after this year's twisters, Felton Gilliland said.
Habitat homebuyers must be head of a household (can be a couple with or without children or a single person with or without children); at least a year of stable work history; participation in financial planning and budgeting workshops and other required training; and willingness to put in considerable “sweat equity” — working for Habitat — among other requirements.
But people who lost homes are “fast-forwarded” through the process, Felton Gilliland said.
She said the following will guide Habitat's response:
• Household income can be from $21,000 to $63,000, depending on family size.
• Habitat is aiming for uninsured or underinsured homeowners.
• Habitat homebuyers will pay the usual zero percent interest with a 22-year mortgage note.
• Habitat homes are three- and four-bedroom brick houses up to 1,500 square feet with a two-car garage, in several floor plans.
• Homebuyers have the option of a tornado shelter.
• Habitat is looking for lots to buy, but already has places to build in Oklahoma City, Moore, Blanchard and Shawnee.
• Habitat homes are built to green standards of energy efficiency and have low utility bills.
How to help
To make a donation to Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity online, go to www.cohfh.org and click on “Donate to Oklahoma Tornado Victims.” For more information about rebuilding in the tornado-stricken area or Habitat's work in general, call 232-4828, or email Ann Felton Gilliland at AnnFelton@cohfh.