Habitat for Humanity Addresses Housing Insecurity in Wake County


Zeba Hussaini

Habitat for Humanity members work on one of the houses in the Kissena Lane project.

Zeba Hussaini, Editor-in-Chief

Saturdays are usually spent running errands, hanging out with friends, or just as a day to relax. While all those things are great ways to spend the weekend, you can find Green Hope’s Habitat for Humanity club at any nearby construction site helping families build a place they can call home.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that provides homes for low-income families within the community. Senior Nathan Herrick, President of the Habitat for Humanity chapter at Green Hope stated, “Most kids that go to Green Hope don’t have to deal with issues related to safe, affordable housing, but it is a real issue in Wake County. One in four families spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing, which means that money has been taken away from food, good childcare, or any of the other basic necessities most people take for granted.” Herrick started GH Habitat for Humanity to spread awareness amongst other teenagers in his community about the crisis of housing insecurity in North Carolina. 

The club is working on their latest project, Kissena Lane. This initiative involves members of Habitat for Humanity getting together to build affordable houses in safe areas, with these houses being located on ‘Kissena Lane’ in Apex, NC. During an on-site interview, Herrick opened up about the club’s current passion project and the progress they’ve made throughout the year. “Once everything opened back up after COVID-19, we started working on this site and Green Hope has been working here since day one, since all this was just dirt. Now we’re working on our seventh, eighth, and ninth houses,” said Herrick. With Habitat for Humanity being a club at Green Hope for one semester, the club’s president remembers how it all started. “I noticed that while there were a lot of people working, there weren’t any teenagers out there. I made it my goal to get some people out, and I thought teenagers would be really helpful. So then I started this club,” stated Herrick. 

Nathan Grant, Senior Class Captain of Habitat for Humanity, shares his take on the beginning of the club. “I was one of the first people to come out here with my friend Nathan, the president. Just seeing it gave him the idea to start the club, which is helping so many people. Since all the other clubs had everything else covered, we were like, ‘this hasn’t been done before’, so we did it,” said Grant. The class captain spent his Saturday overseeing and assisting with the completion of the three houses Habitat for Humanity is currently working on. Alongside members from the club, there are also other people who contribute to the cause. “A lot of churches and organizations have volunteers come out to these sites to help build houses for people who can’t really afford them right now,” added Grant. 

In terms of the project itself, multiple students cited the type of work they were personally responsible for on Saturday, demonstrating the club’s flexibility in providing everyone with their own role. “We had a couple people put siding up on house 72, and we have three foundations that have gone in. We have some people working on installing high beams and advantech subflooring on house 77 and on 78, we are putting in the kneewalls,” said President Herrick, as he oversaw the group’s efforts. Grant, who has also been overseeing the initiative and using the power tools to cut material, stated, “Today, I’ve been cutting measurements of 2 by 6’s and 2 by 16s for people that need them.” Another club member, Senior Stephanie ElRihany, said, “I’ve been here a couple of times, so I’ve done a lot of different types of things. I’ve put up walls, poured foundations, and done some stuff inside the houses.”

By the end of this semester, hopefully, this construction site will be done. We’ll have nine families moved in, and a place where these kids and families will be able to live in stable housing. It’ll be awesome.

— Nathan Herrick ('22)

On any construction site, multiple students can be found lifting heavy items, working with cement, painting the interior and exterior of the houses, and using expensive power tools. One of these students, sophomore Henry Rowen, touches on his experience with this work, stating, “I had heard about Habitat for Humanity before, so when I saw the club list, I was like, ‘no way, that’s great!’ I had to find out more, and I was surprised that we were actually able to build houses, which is crazy.” Prior to joining the unique club, Rowen was not familiar with the tedious work that comes with building houses, but has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge throughout his time with Habitat for Humanity. “You just learn a lot,” Rowen exclaimed. “I have no skills working with wood, tools or anything, but I’m learning them on the site here and it’s crazy how much you can learn!”

As much work as the club members are putting in, they also express their gratitude for the club and how it’s helped them. Not only do they feel that they are making a difference in the lives of others, they also feel that they are personally benefiting from their work as well. Stephanie ElRihany found that after helping out with a few projects, she’s found something she really loves to do. “My friend, Nathan, is the president and he kinda just got me into it. I showed up one day on a whim and I’ve been coming since. It’s really enjoyable and something fun to do,” said ElRihany. Although she was spending her Saturday under the sun, ElRihany relished every second of it. As someone who doesn’t like sitting at home and not doing anything, Habitat for Humanity has given her something to do, while giving back to her community. “There are a lot of organizations at Green Hope that require volunteer hours, and this is a great way to get involved. Even if you’re not in a club, it’s a great way to get into the volunteering world and figure out what it’s like!” said ElRihany.

The club members revealed why they dedicate a great amount of their time to this cause and how it’s helped them personally. “It’s our homeowners – we do everything for the homeowners. Without us, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to live in safe, affordable housing. Most of them are coming from areas that are not safe or not big enough. So we’re changing these people’s lives, and I think that’s really special. It’s something no other school does, and no other teenagers are really doing,” proclaimed Herrick. ElRihany also added, “I know I’m helping families get a nice home in a nice area, and it’s also just something to do. I don’t like sitting at home and not doing anything and it’s something to keep me busy. I don’t really wanna get anything out of this. I want to give to other people, so I’m just here to make houses.”

Herrick later confirmed that by the end of this year, Habitat for Humanity will not only finish the Kissena Lane Project, but they will expand and build houses in other parts of Wake County. The club hopes to gain more members to help build these houses, and to advocate for housing insecurity in North Carolina. “We’ll take anybody! Just come to our meetings or reach out to anyone in the leadership team and we’ll be glad to have you out here!” exclaimed Herrick. Whether you have an interest in construction or just want to give back to the community, Habitat for Humanity is an organization amongst other Green Hope organizations where you can bring your volunteerism and some friends to the same place and make a difference that will impact the lives of many families.