Being truly mindful of the community around us requires a holistic approach. The buildings we drive past en route to campus have their own stories. In property, we discuss landmark cases addressing the justness of affordable housing; in remedies and torts, the unjustness of injunctions or vicarious liability in half-way houses. While these cases and concepts occupy our minds as students and professors, we have neighbors who are patiently awaiting a place to call home. And remembering them is our mission.
The Rutgers Law School Habitat for Humanity group was established to work with the Greater Newark Habitat, in search of the opportunity to do our part in helping provide these neighbors that home. At the same time, our community will understand Rutgers Law School’s student body is eager to provide support outside the halls of justice, on a person-to-person level, with no imbalance of skill, knowledge, or power. And so, RLS Habitat endorses the words of Millard Dean Fuller, Habitat’s founder: “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on peoples love and concern for each other.” Our love and concern for our community can—and should—surpass discussions of law and policy. On any given day, this can be accomplished by framing, painting, cabinetry, flooring, or any performing other necessary tasks to build or restore a home in the community. It is my pleasure to share Habitat with peers, who quickly jumped into action as our local chapter was formed.
On February 1, 2019, RLS Habitat had the opportunity to volunteer at a critical repair project in Jersey City. This particular home’s roof was torn off during Superstorm Sandy, and the residents have lived in temporary housing ever since. Because the storm destroyed the house’s interior, crews before us started from scratch. When RLS Habitat arrived, we were able to work with the site supervisors to spackle a hallway, paint a bathroom, and lay down a sub-floor. But more gratifying, still, was later getting to meet the owners. A special thank you to John DeLuca, Jad Salloum, Salma Salloum, Maxwell Smith, and Joseph Ragsdale for helping us get the owners a few boards, nails, paint, and screws closer to returning home.
Personally, on my first Habitat for Humanity trip in 2007 with Seton Hall Prep, I had no idea how much those few hours of manual labor could mean. We traveled to Appalachia to help build two homes for families whose properties had fallen past disrepair. But this was no public relations trip: There were no photo ops or extended lunches. They were long, hot days. And while the learning curve was steep, the endless appreciation from the families fueled our every step. This experience inspired me to not only continue volunteering with Habitat during college, but also to bring it to Rutgers Law twelve years later.
Our next volunteer day is scheduled for March 22, 2019, so please look for our e-mail announcement and sign up. There will be more days, including Saturdays, in the future. We look forward to seeing you out there!