Marquette woman criticizes Habitat for Humanity for removal from program

The Marquette County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity is facing criticism from a local woman who was removed from the program due to a change in circumstance.

Habitat for Humanity approved Jessica Wilson’s application in March of 2013, which Wilson called a blessing.

Within a couple of months of signing the contract a youth group from a church in downstate Hastings came up and spent a week putting up the walls of the house.

“Yeah, it was awesome,” Wilson said. “I was more than willing to jump on the bandwagon and help Habitat for Humanity. It seemed like a great well-established, well-run, well-managed program. So, November is when the building season really started to begin. We had a meeting with all of the partner families and we established a work schedule. We all signed the same contract saying that we would all work together to build houses for each other. Months went by and I still was the only one who ever showed up to work.”

With help from family and friends, Wilson said they got the house to the point when appliances could start being installed, but then another problem arose.

Wilson said, “It very clearly says in the contract they’ll stop construction if the partner families stop working, but that is not what happened. The partner families from the previous building season were not paying their mortgage so [Habitat for Humanity] wasn’t getting any money back and they were spending all this money on construction of my house.”

Wilson said they stopped construction and some time later she was called in to a meeting with the executive director of the Habitat for Humanity Marquette County Chapter to discuss her finances.

“I walked into the office and I could just tell they had some bad news for me; you know how you can just tell,” Wilson said. “And they proceeded to tell me that they have changed, basically, how the families are accepted into the program, so when I first applied last March, and was accepted and signed the contract, it didn’t say anything about my debt-to-income ratio; my debt was never brought into play at all. It’s always been there, it’s not new. There was no change. What changed was Habitat’s qualifications and reading through the contract, actually, it says right in there that they can change the rules at any time and if they do and you no longer qualify then it said, ‘We have a right to terminate you as a partner family.'”

Wilson’s student loan debt, which she said is in deferment, wasn’t a factor when she originally signed the contract, but a change in federal law mandates that even deferred loans must now be considered.

Wilson said she put in 130 hours helping to build two houses and wasn’t thanked for her time.

She said she doesn’t think Habitat should be able to change its rules arbitrarily, but at the end of the day she wants a thank you for her time and one other thing.

“I guess I don’t want to seem like the bad guy at all; I feel like a victim and I just would like an apology,” Wilson said.

We spoke with Habitat for Humanity who said Wilson was removed from the program due to a change in her financial situation and no longer met the eligibility guidelines.

They said if her financial situation improves she may re–apply.

Executive Director for the Marquette County Chapter Mike Shimon also said that Wilson is the first person they’ve had to remove from the program in his 15 years with the organization.

Wilson is currently saving the money she earns selling her yoga videos to buy a home for her family.