Church hosts cross-country cyclists

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Bike and Build sends young-adult cyclists across the country to build homes at pre-arranged sites. Even though they are not building any homes in New Mexico this year, the ride is meant to raise awareness about the issue of affordable housing.

Locally, the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany played a role in raising that awareness as it played host to a group of these cyclists on Sunday. The church provided the riders with a hot meal and some cold refreshments when the group of 33 cyclists arrived at the church in the afternoon. Green chile cheeseburgers, hot dogs, sodas and water were served.

The riders slept in the parish hall of the church. Members also served breakfast before the cyclists left on Monday morning for Pie Town.

Wes Young, a member of Epiphany, said it would be good if the program had a build site in the city, but he acknowledged the riders can’t do something at every stop.

“I was talking to John (Morrison, a bishop’s warden at Epiphany) earlier,” said 21-year-old Collin Schmitt, a route leader in the program. “He said there seems to be a need for affordable housing in some of the Native American communities, and I think that would be really cool, for us to work in that area.”

In an attempt to be a part of the solution for affordable housing, Bike and Build, which sometimes works with other housing organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and Restore Together, gets college-aged men and women involved.

“Bike and Build is a good way for a lot of people to do a lot of good work,” Schmitt said. “If we go to a build site and we spend eight hours there, 33 people can do a lot of work in that time span and get a lot accomplished.”

Socorro is one of five stops in New Mexico for the group this summer. They started their trip in Portland, Maine, seven weeks ago and they will finish in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Aug. 26.

The path is one of eight routes Bike and Build sponsors travel during the summer. Out of 10 weeks on the road, 13 are committed to helping build houses in various communities.

“We’ll ride for three or four days, we’ll get to a build site that’s already set up and we’ll do a build in that town,” Schmitt said.

If house payments make up more than 30 percent of a family’s income, that house is considered unaffordable.

“Say you’re making $1,000 a month,” said 21-year-old route leader Collin Schmitt. “If you’re spending $300 a month rent or more, then that cuts in to, say, health care. It chips into the budget so much so that it can really affect the quality of life.”

Affordable housing has an application process. Eligible owners are required to pay for the houses, but the mortgage payments are interest-free. Payments are scheduled and adjusted based on income.

“That’s affordable housing: providing a home – not a free home, but a home people can afford to live in,” Schmitt said.

El Defensor Chieftain intern Griffin Swartzell contributed to this report.