Reporter

A new nonprofit agency that emerged from the ashes of Habitat for Humanity is looking to expand services in Osceola County.   

Last May, the local charity known worldwide for building housing for families in need chose to “disaffiliate” from the global Habitat for Humanity organization, and changed its name to New Start Housing Partners.

According to documents filed with the Florida Division of Corporations, board members adopted the name change amendment on Feb. 21, 2018, with a May 1 effective date.

In documents filed April 27, the nonprofit changed its purpose to “working with economically disadvantaged people to help them to create a better human environment in which to live and work.”

The International Habitat for Humanity charity then expanded its Orlando operations into Osceola County, but board members of the disassociated charity known now as New Start Housing partners have been busy applying for their own grants while making the community aware that they are also here to help.

Irwin Inwood is a construction teacher at Poinciana High School and the president of New Start. He said the nonprofit, which continues to operate the former Habitat thrift store on Orange Blossom Trail in Kissimmee, shares a similar mission of providing affordable housing to low-income families.

“But we have our sights set on more than that, too,” he said. “We want to help Osceola County in as many ways as possible.”

For example, New Start donated two $1,000 checks to Liberty and Poinciana High Schools around Thanksgiving to ensure financially disadvantaged families had food for the holiday.

The group is also working to create 10 $500 scholarships at the two high schools for similar students.

“It can help them pay for books and supplies,” Inwood said. “Or maybe gas or to fix their car. Things traditional scholarships may not cover.”

Inwood said New Start is trying to take a wrap-around approach to assistance by finding ways to help the community other than building homes.

Still, creating affordable housing in Osceola County continues to be the group’s primary goal. It already has two areas of land purchased, zoned and ready for construction.

The first is about an acre near St. Cloud High School. Inwood said he and other board members have discussed placing tiny houses on the site, possibly for military veterans.

“We’re trying to be creative and think outside the box,” he said.

New Start would offer the home with zero percent interest and a low mortgage rate, maybe $200 to $300 a month, Inwood said. He wants the non-profit to take a “hand up, not a hand out” approach while still making home ownership financially feasible for low-income individuals.  

New Start also has three parcels of land along Lincoln Street in Kissimmee.

The greatest challenge facing the new nonprofit is securing donations and grants, said secretary Madelyne Santangelo.

“We don’t have that big name behind us anymore, so it makes it more challenging,” she said.

 Santangelo and Inwood said New Start needed to raise about $200,000 to get construction projects going on the pieces of land it already owns.

Revenue from the thrift store also helps, and employees with trucks are available free of charge to pick up items people may want to donate to New Start.

The decision to disassociate from Habitat for Humanity has made things difficult for the new charity over the last nine months, but Santangelo said she thinks the flexibility will be worth it.

“Habitat is a wonderful organization, but with our own non-profit we can be more nimble, move more quickly when we see a need,” she said. “It’s the difference between trying to turn a rowboat and a cruise ship.”

For more information about New Start Housing Partners, contact Inwood at 407-729-6845 or email board@newstarthousingpartners.org.