"This block is literally being transformed:" Habitat for Humanity kicks off 2015 build season

MILWAUKEE (WITI) --  A crew of more than 150 volunteers came together in the Washington Park neighborhood this week to launch Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity’s 31st year of building homes, community and hope at the annual “Blitz Build.”

During this May Build, Habitat will focus on the 2100 block of North 38th Street — adding three owner-occupied houses to a block that is already home to 15 Habitat families, and boosting the homeownership rate to nearly 90 percent.

"This block is literally being transformed," said Brian Sonderman, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity Executive Director.

Habitat for Humanity's focus is on the Washington Park neighborhood after Milwaukee police and the District Attorney's Office identified it as an area where they want to bring crime down. And there has been an improvement.

"We've seen crime decrease over 30 percent," said Sonderman.

The number of home owners in the 2100 and 2200 blocks of North 38th Street has gone from 40 percent to 90 percent -- which Habitat leaders say has a direct impact on safety.

"Homeowners put their roots deep down into the community, they know their neighbors, they`re watching out for their neighbors and their neighborhood," said Sonderman.

Habitat is committed to working in the neighborhood for two more years. But as more families buy, they're already seeing long-lasting impacts from the fruits of their labor.

"They`ll be here 20 years from now, being the champions of change and the block captains, and so forth," said Sonderman.

While Milwaukee Habitat has broadened its focus to neighborhood revitalization, the organization’s core mission remains to provide affordable housing opportunities for hardworking families. In 2015, the organization will serve more than 40 families, while constructing new homes and rehabbing city-owned abandoned foreclosures.

For the past 30 years, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity and its corps of dedicated volunteers has partnered with low-income families to build homes and stabilize communities. In 2013, the organization launched a Neighborhood Revitalization strategy, and is now concentrating its work in Washington Park to make a significant, sustainable impact on the neighborhood’s housing conditions and property values.

Through the Neighborhood Revitalization, Milwaukee Habitat has expanded its programs beyond new construction to include affordable home repairs and rehabs, and community development projects.