I saw this morning that the family featured in the Savannah edition of Extreme Home Makeover are putting the house up for sale. Briefly, the reasons are that it no longer fits their “family dynamic,” and the expense of maintaing the home and paying taxes on it.
Unlike some commentators I’ve seen, I don’t have a problem with them selling the house. If it doesn’t work for you anymore, and you think your family will be better off by selling, then by all means sell. And they are not the first family who received a home makeover to end up selling the home because of expenses.
So I don’t really want to address this one family. Their situation, though, does lead me to point out other things or, really, to just point out one main thing: The problem with these families is not that they lack a big house. So giving them a big house won’t fix the problems.
From my limited exposure to the show, the families they helped really needed help. And, while the show is about entertainment, I don’t doubt that most of the folks volunteering on the builds genuinely wanted to help the families involved. Sure they probably had fun, but that’s not a bad thing; being able to help and have fun doing it sounds like a win-win to me.
The problem here is the underlying assumption: Your family has trouble because you’re not able to have nice stuff. If you assume that, the solution is obvious: Give them nice stuff. It’s a simplistic, materialistic solution to a very complex problem.
As some have pointed out, this family would probably have been more helped by a Habitat for Humanity project, in which they put “sweat equity” into their own home that, while much smaller than the Makeover home, would have had more likelihood of being workable for them. In addition to that, though, finding them support they need for not only financial issues, but also medical issues and other areas where they may need help and support.
This whole tale is another example of why the materialistic view of poverty doesn’t work. People can parachute in and do something really big but, in the end, the family is no better off for it. A year and a half later they’re having to find other ways to meet the same needs they had before.
A lot more could be said about this. A lot of discussion is needed. If you want a good place to start reading, When Helping Hurts is a great place.