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Destroyed home, lot donated to Habitat for Humanity
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A vacant lot is waiting for a Habitat house and a homeless veteran to live in it. - photo by NAT GURLEY

After a Jan. 16 fire consumed their home, James and Kristine Hunter are hoping to build a better future for a homeless veteran.

“The wife and kids did not want to go back to that location where they almost died in the house fire, so we decided to buy a new house and donate that land to Habitat for Humanity for Wounded Warrior,” James Hunter said. “The community was good to us, and we’re just giving back to the community.”

The Hunters articulated their desire for the Habitat home to go to a homeless veteran.

“They’ve risked their lives for people every day without being seen,” James Hunter said.

Ann Nixon, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Hall County, faced some difficulty finding a suitable applicant. After reaching out to veterans and veterans’ advocates, no names came forward.

Nixon said the organization hopes to start building at the end of August and complete it before the winter holidays.

“Our straight-up build plan is to have it completed sometime very likely in early December,” she said. “We always like to build in extra time in case anything slows down. But we are expecting to be able to hand over the keys to the front door before Christmastime.”

James Hunter said the family may even get involved in constructing the home with building director Tim Williams.

“(Williams) said we can come by and he’d put a hammer in our hand,” James Hunter said. “We’re welcome to go by anytime we want just to see what’s going on and help out if needed.”

Habitat for Humanity of Hall County is trying to find the funds to build this house and is hoping for community donations and grants.

“We’re all so well served by the military, and this is a really easy way for people to give back individually for those who have given so much more of themselves for our security and safety,” Nixon said.

“It is my hope that we’re going to have people feel moved to support this veteran initiative in ($)5s and ($)10s and ($)20s and ($)50s or whatever form that they will.”

Eligibility factors in the application include size of family, income level, credit scores, background checks, and the financial ability to carry the mortgage, among others. The applicant must also have lived for a 12-month period in Hall County or for a 12-month period prior to military deployment.

“We’re trying to help not only people who are financially capable who could not get commercial lending, but also those who are living in conditions that are not ideal,” Nixon said. “We’re trying to help them out of a bad situation.”

Veterans and Community Outreach Foundation Executive Director Victor Lamar Johnson said he believes the project is a much-needed start in helping the homeless of Hall County.

“I think this is going to be a great thing once Habitat gets together with community leaders and moves forward this transitional housing, because there’s more than just veterans out there,” he said.