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Building for Good

Square Foot Ministry is helping break the cycle of poverty

Intergenerational poverty can stifle people’s dreams and their capacity to contribute positively to their communities. If that cycle of poverty is broken, so much good can be unleashed: housing, health, education, career, joy and meaning in life. Through the generosity of non-profits like Square Foot Ministry (SFM), lower-income families are breaking away from poverty that holds so many in bondage for generations. 

Square Foot Ministry is a faith-based non-profit that participates in neighborhood transformations, single-home constructions and minor home repair services for those in need. Recipients of their homes are mostly single, working mothers with children. Most of these individuals would not have the chance to achieve homeownership if it weren’t for the blessings of SFM. To date, SFM and its volunteers have built 15 new homes. The first home was built in 2002 for a single grandmother who was raising her grandchildren in an unsafe house in Fayetteville. Square Foot Ministry brought together local churches, civic organizations and businesses to volunteer and donate to the project, and within six weeks, a new home was built for the family in need. 

Potential homeowners must make their way through an application process in order to prove the need and level of priority to the helping non-profit. Individuals must also be first-time homebuyers and part of a working family where at least one adult earns an income in accordance with SFM’s income guidelines and credit standards. Personal interviews and background screenings ensure the individuals’ ability to participate in building their homes and paying the monthly mortgage of zero interest from SFM and about $500 per month to cover a mortgage principal and escrow. A family must also contribute a minimum number of hours helping to create their home and other similar constructions in the neighborhood. 

The typical home built for a lower-income family is a one-story 1,300 square foot building with three bedrooms and two baths. Because a certain model of home is established for every project, the budget and list of materials are known upfront. Materials are then purchased from suppliers with whom SFM has had long-standing relationships. Some suppliers even provide a discount or donate their materials and/or labor. The total cost of a home is around $75,000 (minus any donated items). It usually takes about six months to complete a home build. 

Up to two hundred volunteers may participate in a home-building endeavor. Local churches, businesses and civic organizations join together with SFM on the house projects. Currently serving are Fayette area Methodist churches, Rinnai Corporation, Clothes Less Traveled and Coweta-Fayette EMC. In its construction projects, SFM has also welcomed youths to its volunteer team. IMPACT is an initiative that provides local youth with service opportunities such as home builds, remodeling and clean-up of community and non-profit facilities. 

Square Foot Ministry has also lifted the missions of other non-profits so that they may provide better for those in need:

  • A new facility for Fayette Samaritans, a faith-based ministry serving families in critical need of food, clothing and emergency financial assistance.

  • An addition to Promise Place which provides services, resources and education to victims of domestic violence and their children.

  • A facility for the Fayette Pregnancy Resource Center, a faith-based organization that offers physical, spiritual, and emotional support to women, men and families facing an unplanned pregnancy.

  • A facility for the Fayette Counseling Center, a mental health services provider for those afflicted with substance abuse.

  • Shelving and other structures for Clothes Less Traveled, a thrift store that channels their profits to support the mission of other charitable organizations.

  • An addition to A Better Way Ministries home, a faith-based residential treatment program for young men recovering from substance abuse.

When they are not building homes, SFM has been repairing them, to include 70 home repair and handicap-access projects in the south metro Atlanta area:

  • Building wheelchair ramps for homes

  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms

  • Repairing sagging/rotting floor areas

  • Repairing or replacing non-functional doors

  • Reattaching loose drywall

Like every non-profit, the challenges are plenty for SFM. Needs include ongoing sources of funding and volunteers with a heart for servicing their communities. While SFM is a construction, faith-based ministry, no building skills are necessary to participate as the organization provides all the tools and training needed for various aspects of a home-building project. To learn more about Square Foot Ministry, visit their website at www.squarefootministry.org or contact Executive Director, Jeff Williams via email at jeffwilliams@squarefootministry.org. 

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