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Family Services Workshops: The Educational Foundations for Homeownership

Family Services Workshops: The Educational Foundations for Homeownership

Before a family cuts the ribbon on their front door, the Habitat for Humanity model relies on a mutual partnership between Habitat and future homeowners in the form of “sweat equity” hours. 

At Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, the core of sweat equity extends beyond swinging a hammer, and into the classroom. Our future homeowners attend a workshop schedule of 10-15 classes that take a holistic approach to topics affecting homeownership – from understanding your credit report to protecting your new home from water damage.

“The core intention of the workshops are to ensure that our families have the knowledge and resources to be as successful as possible in their new homes,” says Rita Calicat, Director of Family Services.

A primary focus of the workshops early on is to help future homeowners understand their spending habits and credit profiles, with an emphasis on steps and solutions to improve over time.

Other workshops provide homeowners with an opportunity to really understand the house as a system – how it operates, how to protect it, and how to promote energy efficiency. For families coming from rental scenarios where the needs of the home are not their immediate responsibility, this type of education is invaluable in smoothing the transition to homeownership. Workshops help far beyond the initial transition, too. Classes on Foreclosure Prevention and Crisis Budget Planning serve to prepare homeowners should tough times arise.

Aisha Sylla, who bought her Point Breeze home with her husband in 2015, cited the workshops as one of the best facets of the homeownership program: “I loved the workshops. Without the workshops I would just be living in the house. The workshops actually helped me to live in the house and to enjoy it – if something goes wrong, I know what to do and know there is no need to panic.”

A Homeowners Insurance workshop walks families through what type of insurance they need and why. Families are also walked through the settlement process, the key documents involved, and an in-depth understanding of the clauses in their affordable mortgage that are upheld during the duration of the loan.

Other classes are less focused on finances and the home itself, and more about being a good neighbor. A West Philly homeowner highlighted the worth of the Conflict Resolution workshop: “You move to a block with some expectations that you should be treated a certain way. But really, you have to fit into a community. You have to see where things are. Do your part to help out. Keep things clean. The conflict resolution workshop was really important.”

The workshop program is responsive to changing homeowner needs. As our Family Services team understands the developing needs of future homeowners, the workshops can and will expand to meet those needs. Our newest cohort of families will attend an Estate Planning Workshop.  In the near future, a Police and Fire Safety class will be incorporated into the curriculum.

Overall, our robust workshop program is designed to empower future homeowners to make positive changes and to provide the necessary knowledge for success – both before they unlock their front doors, and for years to come.

For more information, or to partner as a workshop host, reach out to Shonda Brinson, Family Services Coordinator at or (215) 765-6000 ext. 27.