Homebuilders are sometimes vilified with claims that they are large corporate entities with little regard for inadequate and sub-standard housing, but that myth is being dispelled by HomeAid America, a fast-growing charity that's already a success in western states.

The non-profit was founded in 1989 by the Building Industry Association of Southern California (BIA/SC), an affiliate of the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). It's now believed to be the nation’s largest provider of shelter beds for the temporarily homeless.

Why do people suddenly need shelter? Reasons for temporary homelessness include domestic violence, job loss, catastrophic illness, crises pregnancies as well as the need to provide shelter for abused and abandoned children.

The organization says it has completed 55 shelter projects that provide 1,000 beds. It has also raised more than $30 million in cash and in-kind contributions with help from 3,000 companies and 30,000 people. The organization hopes to add 58 additional chapters.

Currently, the non-profit organization has ten chapters, including five in California, three in Colorado, and one each in Arizona and Chicago. 

The concept is to pool the talent and philanthropy of builders, developers, Realtors, construction trades, newspapers. PR firms, architects, mortgage companies; in some cases up to 75 different organizations and entities may be involved in just one HomeAid project.

Jerilyn Marr, program manager for HomeAid Sacramento, says her local chapter has completed five projects and is working on two more. The smallest project was the remodeling of a bathroom at the Sacramento Children’s Home while the biggest was the construction of a dormitory to house abandoned and abused children.

“We’re now adding another dormitory with twenty more beds, it’s so heartening to see how many different companies want to help,” says Marr. Also underway is the remodeling of the Diogenes Youth Services Center, a facility designed to house 16 pregnant women and their babies.

At Diogenes, residents will receive self-sufficiency training.

“We believe in program-based projects, with the goal of helping give a leg-up to people who need that extra help to be on their own,” says Marr.

To start a HomeAid chapter, or to support an existing one, visit the group's Web site

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