Leonard "Roosevelt" Williams, at the age of 53, built a typical shanty in a squatters' settlement on Manhattan's Lower East Side after he became homeless, the place where he worked burned down, and he was mugged while looking for work in the city. Without knowing it, Williams had the good fortune of lodging himself in the shadow of a six-story building under renovation for the working poor by Habitat for Humanity. Within months Williams had landed a part-time job at the construction site as a night security guard and, excited about the goals of the program, had volunteered time on the building crew.
Williams now lives in a new apartment in the building where he works. When it is completed, the converted tenement will house 19 families, who will purchase their apartments interest-free. He is one of thousands of persons whose lives have been changed for the better by Habitat for Humanity, a 10-year-old ecumenical housing ministry whose goal is to provide simple, decent housing for God's people in need.
Habitat is the brain child of Millard Fuller, a native Southerner whose charisma, energy, and entrepreneurial acumen accelerated him to a position of wealth and power; by the age of 29, he was a millionaire lawyer and businessman. Millard was also speeding toward marital breakup and spiritual bankruptcy when he heard the call to discipleship that Jesus extended to the rich young ruler in the gospel: "Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Luke 18:22).
But instead of walking sadly away, grasping their considerable possessions, Millard and his wife, Linda, prayerfully committed themselves to a new way of life. For almost 20 years now, the Fullers have channeled their energies into projects on behalf of the poor.