Daily Egyptian

SIU Alum bicycles cross the nation to bring awareness of affordable housing

By Clair Cowley, Staff Writer

A social worker from Teutopolis, IL is raising $5,000 dollars to fund her biking trip across the country to raise awareness of the national affordable housing crisis.

“I understand a lot about the issue and it’s a nonconventional way to bring light to the affordable housing crisis in the U.S.,” Ashley Lunneman said.

Lunneman said she has seen first hand how people who don’t have the means to afford their rent and utilities can continue the cycle of poverty.  

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By Lunneman joining Bike and Build a non-profit organization, she and the Southern U.S route team will join 5 other biking teams throughout the country to build homes for low-income Americans.

This summer 36 young adults will be participating on the trip. The journey begins on May 10, where Lunneman will start in Jacksonville, FL.

Over the next 11 weeks, her team will pedal an average 71 miles per day to Santa Cruz, CA, arriving July 28.

The riders will participate in 16 volunteer build days with different affordable housing organizations including Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for families in need Lunneman said.

Lunneman and her three other team members pre-planned for the biking trip by calling nonprofit organizations and churches in the communities they will be traveling through to see if they would host the volunteers during the night.

“Typically, we stay in churches, at Habitat for Humanity or camp out, anywhere they’ll have us.,” Lunneman said. “We have a Therm-a-rest that we can blow up and sleep on.”

Lunneman said they contact local Habitat chapters, to see if they can volunteer with them as apart of the build days or if there is any work the volunteers could do.

“Habitat is a very large organization here in the United States and abroad,” Lunneman said. “People who make low wages will apply to the program and Habitat will build homes for these participates. These participants will never be asked to give over 30 percent of their income to pay for the homes.”

Lunneman said Habitat for Humanity is interesting because they offer people who maybe don’t make the most money to have the opportunity to be homeowners.

Very few of Habitat for Humanity’s workers are paid as staff, so volunteers are usually retired construction workers.

Once volunteers arrive at the community they’re staying in, they host a presentation to raise awareness of who they are and what the affordable housing cause is.

A bike clinic will also be held where local children learn how to ride bicycles safely.

Each team, including Lunneman’s, raise cumulatively $180,000 toward a grant program between northern, southern, central and pacific route areas.  

“If there’s an organization that helps raise awareness for affordable housing and helps those who have issues affording a home, they can apply and get up to $10,000 for their mission,” Lunneman said. “It doesn’t have to be Habitat for Humanity. There’s a lot of other organizations that help efforts toward affordable housing, but Habitat is the biggest.”

Director of Outreach and Bike and Build Alumni Relations Lily Goldberg runs the scholarship program.

Goldberg said Bike and Build work on new construction, refurbishment, rebuilding, and renovation projects. Some organizations they work with also do affordable rentals, homeless, and transitional housing projects.

“We have three cross-country and two regional cycling trips every summer for young adults between the ages of 18 and 29,” Goldberg said.

Participating riders can raise money in different ways, for example, letter writing to friends and family, posting on social media, doing fundraisers at local bars and restaurants.

“Some get creative and sell t-shirts or other items,” Goldberg said.

She said Bike and Build plays an important role in the affordable housing crisis through three primary ways. The first is financial.

“Through our grant program, we grant hundreds of thousands of dollars to affordable housing organizations across the country each year,” Goldberg said.

The second is through building homes.

“Our teams stop every three to six days in different towns and cities and build homes,” she said.

The last is through education and advocacy. “A majority of our riders join Bike and Build with minimal knowledge of the crisis. They gain a greater perspective on housing issues both at a local and national scale,” Goldberg said.

Staff writer Clair Cowley can be reached at [email protected]

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