Hammers knock, saws grind and volunteers grunt as a new home rises up smack dab in the middle of downtown San Diego’s Horton Square.
The 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house is specially designated for a family in need, thanks to Habitat for Humanity.
But downtown will not be this home’s final … well… home. Once it’s framed and finished, crews will break it into manageable pieces to deliver it to Habitat’s new community in El Cajon, situated off Foundation Lane.
"We bring this build to downtown San Diego just so that the downtown community can see what we're doing,” explained Shandy Arwood with Habitat for Humanity.
It’s just one of the nonprofit’s many construction projects underway across the county. Nearly 7,000 volunteers, spread out over four days a week, are hard at work building another 11 homes in Escondido and six homes in Imperial Beach.
Many volunteers have never even held a hammer. Arwood said the organization teaches them everything they need to know.
The recipients will be families who earn up to 80 percent of the area’s median income. They also must show a need for improved housing, have at least one stable job and put their own “sweat equity” into the home, meaning they’re building alongside the volunteers.
"So, we're able to take hard working families and put them into a home where they're stable and they can then reach out to their community,” said Arwood. “And their kids do better in school. Parents do better in their jobs. It's really life changing. That's the best way I can describe it."
Since labor is free and the land is typically donated, Habitat just has to pay for building materials, Arwood said, so they’ll often partner with corporate groups to handle the cost. For the downtown project, companies like Union Bank and California Bank and Trust lent a hand -- and a buck or two (or $15,000).
As it enters its 26th year in San Diego, Habitat plans to continue developing its El Cajon location early next year.