Jasmine Palmer and her two daughters were once homeless, living in their car. That's until she started a journey toward home ownership and building a better life for herself and her children.
It took commitment to volunteer 500 hours of work, and along with time donated by volunteers from nine churches, she now has a place to call home. That, she told an audience gathered recently for the launch of an ambitious program to turn out many more new homes like hers, provides strength, stability and independence for families and changes neighborhoods and communities for the better.
Having announced plans to construct 60 new homes a year and doing so largely in a factory in Rohnert Park, Habitat for Humanity Sonoma County is revealing some of its game plan to get there.
In short, much use of technology — and donated labor. Creation of the center was reported in a Business Journal story in June. At that time, officials said the center was modeled after similar Habitat for Humanity manufacturing operations in Georgia, Colorado and Edmonton, Canada. Habitat’s new component factory will have an estimated annual budget of $500,000 and could be self-sustaining in about three years.
John Kennedy, Habitat’s interim Sonoma CEO who worked at Marin County’s Autodesk developing software for the design side of construction, said the nonprofit will rely on new technology to expedite the building process and make it run efficiently, including computer-aided framing design and 3D tablets at construction sites to help volunteers put the pieces together.
“Change is hard," Kennedy said. "Habitat expects to build 15 homes this year. Our main concern is how to scale housing production using today’s small talent pool to meet our goal of building 600 homes in 10 years. Having more volunteers and utilizing computer-aided technology tools are part of the solution.”
For labor, Habitat for Humanity’s goal is to recruit up to 1,000 volunteers locally by 2020. The nonprofit will also need equipment to produce homes, expressed in the form of a wish list.
All of it is geared by Habitat’s leadership team plans to have its Habitat Center at SOMO Village for industrialized manufacturing and construction up and running by August.
“We are all Habitat, and there is a special role for each of you to fill here,” Habitat Sonoma Chairman Tim Leach said to over 150 people attending the June 21 preopening celebration at the center. He invited them to sign up at one of the orange tables to volunteer in the 33,000-square-foot indoor production facility.
Angie Moeller, chief development officer, emphasized the key role volunteers play.
“To build more homes, we need more volunteers, who are at the heart of all we do," she said. "If you want to help build an affordable home in Sonoma County, there is a place for you at Habitat.”
To gear up production, here are some items on the nonprofit organization’s equipment wish list (habitatsoco.org/get-involved/donate): computer-driven Hornet PMMC wall framing part cutter from iN4 Solutions in Marysville that digitally prints exact nailing and anchor post positions on lumber, marking precise drilling/cutting points and giving volunteers other vital data, such as the project’s name, assembly instructions and where to place headers, tie-downs and window cutouts.
In addition, two trucks and two forklifts are also needed, along with four gooseneck trailers and six utility trailers to be used for delivering finished frames and other materials to and from construction sites.