Rutgers Habitat for Humanity club spends 24-hours building low-income housing for community


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Photo by Kira Herzog |

The Habitat for Humanity club at Rutgers gathered on Livingston campus this weekend to build a home for a low income family in Middlesex County.


Another low income or homeless family will have a roof over their head this winter thanks to a group of selfless Rutgers students.

On Saturday at noon, Rutgers Habitat for Humanity hosted their annual Build-a-Thon event, a 24-hour event in which students from the club build structures that become part of the construction of a $50,000 home in the greater Plainfield and Middlesex County area.

Jessica Mui, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the large events fundraising chair for the club,said they work with the Habitat for Humanity in the greater Plainfield area to participate in a “half house sponsorship." This means that the club will pay for half the house and the materials needed to build it. 

Students fundraised through personal donations and canning around New Brunswick prior to this event to raise money for the supplies they used.

“The whole point of having limited materials is to raise awareness for homelessness. When you’re homeless, you kind of just use whatever you have and this is the reality of some people without shelters”, said Rheanna Duque, a School of Engineering sophomore.

All of the money will go directly to building an affordable house for a family in need.

“It’s important to have affordable housing,” Mui said. “It is definitely a need in our local community. Housing is expensive. There are a lot of families stuck in the rent cycle that move around a lot, and it’s really hard when you’re doing that to raise a family and have stability in the house. (Habitat for Humanity) works to ensure that families have access to a house that they can afford to live in and a stable place where their kids can grow up in”.

Students have the opportunity to go to the house that they are building every weekend to work on it and see the progress.

“We work foundation up so we’re there when they lay the foundation. We do everything from the walls of the house to the roof to the inside rooms and putting the drywall up and painting and everything,” Mui said.

According to the club, the families that get the house participate in “sweat equity." To decrease the financial struggle, they can contribute to the home by putting in a certain amount of hours of construction work.

Jacob Ledden, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, said this concept of the family contributing to the house themselves alongside Habitat is called giving a “hand up not a handout,” meaning the club helps the poor without just giving them free services or handouts. The families work for their house.

Students slept overnight in the structures they built as a part of raising awareness about homelessness and the need for shelters and affordable housing.

“It emulates the struggle of homeless people. Sometimes the weather can get really bad and it can get really cold and that’s some of the realities that they face every day,” Duque said.

Juliana Irizarry, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and the director of outreach for the club, said that by sleeping in the shacks overnight, students create a sense of empathy and conscience for the homeless.

The family whose house the club built the previous year will return to Build-a-Thon after the structures are built to pay it forward by overseeing the project and supporting the students, Mui said.

The family will also judge the work of each team to award prizes for the most creative structure and the most stable structure.

Irizarry said that she likes how everyone works together to support the event.

90.3 the Core, a student-run radio station, supports Build-a-Thon by voluntarily bringing their DJ booth to the event every year so students can enjoy some entertainment while working, Irizarry said.

“This event is heavily community-based, from working with different student organizations to individuals to donors,” she said. “We also get donations from local businesses outside of Rutgers. A lot of local places will donate food or give us discounted materials. We got paint donated. It’s incredible. Everyone comes together to make this happen.”


Erica D'Costa

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