Since its founding in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat for Humanity International has built and rehabilitated more than 800,000 houses with partner families, helping house more than 4 million people and becoming a true world leader in addressing the issues of poverty housing.
Koinonia Farm and the Fund for Humanity
The concept that grew into Habitat for Humanity International was born at Koinonia Farm, a small, interracial, Christian farming community founded in 1942 outside of Americus, Ga., by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan. The Fullers first visited Koinonia in 1965, having recently left a successful business in Montgomery, Ala., and all the trappings of an affluent lifestyle to begin a new life of Christian service. At Koinonia, Jordan and Fuller developed the concept of “partnership housing,” where those in need of adequate shelter would work side by side with volunteers to build simple, decent houses.
The houses would be built with no profit added and no interest charged. Building would be financed by a revolving Fund for Humanity. The fund’s money would come from the new homeowners’ house payments, donations and no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fund-raising activities. The monies in the Fund for Humanity would be used to build more houses.
An open letter to the friends of Koinonia Farm told of the new future for Koinonia:
What the poor need is not charity but capital, not caseworkers but co-workers. And what the rich need is a wise, honorable and just way of divesting themselves of their overabundance. The Fund for Humanity will meet both of these needs. Money for the fund will come from shared gifts by those who feel they have more than they need and from non-interest bearing loans from those who cannot afford to make a gift but who do want to provide working capital for the disinherited. The fund will give away no money. It is not a handout.
In 1968, Koinonia laid out 42 half-acre house sites with four acres reserved as a community park and recreational area. Capital was donated from around the country to start the work. Homes were built and sold to families in need at no profit and no interest. The basic model of Habitat for Humanity was begun.
In 1973, the Fullers decided to apply the Fund for Humanity concept in developing countries. The Fuller family moved to Mbandaka, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). The Fullers’ goal was to offer affordable yet adequate shelter to 2,000 people. After three years of hard work to launch a successful house building program, the Fullers returned to the United States.
Habitat for Humanity International
In September 1976, Millard and Linda called together a group of supporters to discuss the future of their dream. Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) as an organization was born at this meeting. The eight years that followed, vividly described in Millard Fuller’s book, Love in the Mortar Joints, proved that the vision of a housing ministry was workable. Faith, hard work and direction set HFHI on its successful course.
In 1984, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn took their first Habitat work trip, the Jimmy Carter Work Project, to New York City. Their personal involvement in Habitat’s ministry brought the organization national visibility and sparked interest in Habitat’s work across the nation. HFHI experienced a dramatic increase in the number of new affiliates around the country.
Through the work of Habitat, thousands of low-income families have found new hope in the form of affordable housing. Churches, community groups and others have joined together to successfully tackle a significant social problem – decent housing for all.
Today, Habitat for Humanity has more than 1,400 local affiliates in the United States and more than 70 national organizations around the world. Together, we have helped 6.8 million people improve their living conditions.
Adapted from the Habitat for Humanity International website.