A Lennar home built with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans.
Photos courtesy HomeAid America A Lennar home built with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans.

Three and a half million Americans experience homelessness every year, and over twice that many more are at risk.

HomeAid America, a national building industry nonprofit and builder of housing and resources for Americans experiencing homelessness, is raising awareness about the country’s homelessness epidemic during its Homelessness Awareness Month this November. Most HomeAid’s chapters participated in the month-long effort in a variety of ways, from holding fundraising galas to distributing Thanksgiving dinner and collecting winter coats.

Here, BUILDER spoke with HomeAid America CEO Peter Simons about the organization’s efforts to alleviate homelessness in its 19 markets across the country.

Tell us a bit about HomeAid. What builders are involved?
With chapters in 19 markets across the country, we work with local and national builders, trades, and suppliers to build dignified housing on behalf of reputable nonprofit partners at a fraction of the cost. In fact, 17 of the top 20 builders in this year’s Builder 100 have built at least one HomeAid project over the years. One of the largest—Lennar Homes—and its legacy companies have built over 50 projects!

Volunteers help with HomeAid's Builders for Babies event.
Photos courtesy HomeAid America Volunteers help with HomeAid's Builders for Babies event.

What types of people are affected by homelessness?
Contrary to popular belief, the stereotypical person experiencing homelessness is not a disheveled man pushing a shopping cart down an urban street. Over half of the people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. are families. What’s more, over 85% of those without shelter are only situationally homeless, and can reach self-sufficiency if given a hand up at the right time. This includes veterans, abandoned and emancipated youth, domestic abuse victims, and those affected by natural disasters or temporary financial setbacks.

The U.S. economy is doing well and unemployment is at historic lows. Does this mean that homelessness is lessening in cities across the country?
While homelessness has been on a slight decline, it still remains a major national problem. Over 1.5 million of the 3.5 million Americans experiencing homelessness each year are children. Homelessness is officially in a “State of Emergency” in many major cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, and others. The home building industry can take advantage of these better economic times and partner with HomeAid to support our cost-effective housing development program to solve this problem; we believe that there is no excuse for the wealthiest country on the planet to have so many citizens without a home.

Taylor Morrison volunteered with HomeAid America to remodel this home.
Photos courtesy HomeAid America Taylor Morrison volunteered with HomeAid America to remodel this home.

Builders across the country are working to end homelessness. Do you see this trend continuing over the next decade?
This coming January, HomeAid will celebrate its 30th anniversary. In our history, we have already built more than 550 projects creating more than 10,000 beds for the homeless and housing over 325,000 people. It is an impressive track record that we hope to build on, and with continued support of the building industry, we can make a major impact in the effort to house every American looking for a home for years to come.

How can a builder get involved with HomeAid if they are not already?
The industry can get involved by becoming a Builder Captain, donating materials and labor to a housing project, or by participating in a HomeAid community outreach drive to collect basic necessities for those experiencing homelessness. To see a list of our current chapters where you can get involved, please visit www.homeaid.org/chapters. If there is not a chapter in your market, please contact HomeAid America directly to learn about our chapter expansion efforts and bringing this program to your community.