By Paul Farr
Athens Area Habitat for Humanity has teamed up with the Athens nonprofit Lydia’s Place to help local students with no homes to go to.
Lydia’s Place assists young adults who are fleeing abuse, have aged out of the foster care system, or otherwise come from a background of homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless. Fewer than 4% of teens in this situation will ever earn a college degree. But Habitat and Lydia’s Place are looking to change those odds for at-risk students in the Athens Area with the construction of a pre-paid housing facility called “Lydia’s Homeplace”.
“This is a group in need of housing who we have not yet served,” said Athens Area Habitat’s executive director Spencer Frye.
“Because there’s a social stigma attached to being homeless or having no family, these students tend to hide their situation, to pretend they’re not in need, so they can be largely invisible,"Frye said. "And yet, when the dorms close for breaks or the summer, most of them have nowhere to go. And something as small as an unpaid health services bill can get them locked out of registration and the dorms and, boom, they’re back on the street despite all the hard work they’ve had to go through to even get into college in the first place.
"The work ethic and optimism of these kids is truly humbling and inspiring, and we feel privileged to be part of this effort to provide them with safe and stable housing,” he said.
Lydia’s Homeplace will provide off-campus housing for eight local college students at a time. Habitat and Lydia’s Place are providing funding for the renovation of the building, and Lydia’s Place will cover the cost of rent.
“There used to be a dorm room which was sponsored for these students, but that sponsorship has lapsed," Frye said.
"This project will quadruple the number of students who can be housed, and the total rent for those all students will be half the cost of a single dorm room." he said. "And because it’s off-campus and on the bus line, Lydia’s Homeplace can serve students at all our area colleges. So, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Athens Area Habitat is dedicating this year’s annual fund drive to the Homeplace. Lydia’s Place and local donors have already committed $50,000 to the project, and Habitat is looking to raise an additional $30,000 to complete it. A local foundation is offering matching contributions to the Habitat General Fund for the drive, donating dollar-for-dollar for the first $10,000 and fifty cents on the dollar until the goal is met. “That matching is so important because it means we can dedicate our entire annual fund drive to the Homeplace project and still meet our goals for the General Fund,” Frye said.
For more information about the project or to provide support visit https://www.athenshabitat.com/homeplace/
Paul Farr is marketing director for Athens Area Habitat for Humanity