Nonprofit In Dilemma -- What To Do? - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/2/07-Tyler

Nonprofit In Dilemma -- What To Do?

An East Texas nonprofit finds itself in a dilemma: How to proceed after KLTV 7 first discovered a convicted felon is set to receive a home from Habitat For Humanity. 

Derrick Hodges, 33, was arrested last week for aggravated robbery of a Henderson bank back in November and police say he may be connected to a dozen others. Tuesday, KTLV spoke with volunteers and Habitat's board president to find out what's being done with the suspected robber's new home.

Dozens of volunteers hammered away, hanging wood panels on this brand new home for Habitat For Humanity. Working hard and sweating, trying to stay cool under the hot East Texas sun only to find out, for now, their work is for a convicted felon and his family.

"I work hard everyday for myself, you know. I'm a honest citizen, and a hard working citizen. So coming out here and volunteering for this, for a criminal, is a little frustrating," said Allison Young, a volunteer.

Volunteers out there said they were surprised to hear the news of Derrick Hodges' arrest.  Many of them said they're torn about what should happen with the home they've worked so hard to finish.

"The family is obviously the one that's going to pay the consequences of the husband's mistakes or the father's mistakes, and I think the family ought to have the house," said volunteer Maurice Barnes.

"When I heard about that, I don't know, I'm for both sides. I think the family definitely could use the help after hearing their story, but I think a screening process would be very good," said volunteer Jim Taylor.

Habitat For Humanity said that screening process is only based on need.  No criminal background checks are performed, except for registered sex offenders.

"Let me put it this way, if everyone that committed a crime is precluded from purchasing a house, I think a lot people wouldn't. I don't think it's standard practice to do a full blown criminal check in approving someone or not approving someone for a mortgage," said Board President Brad Curtis.

Habitat said they are limbo right now, talking with attorneys and Habitat International to figure out how to proceed.

As for a policy change on background checks: "Habitat International recommends against criminal background checks, only for sexual offenses.  That doesn't mean that we can't do it, it's just we haven't done it up to this point, but we're certainly going to take a look at that policy i'm sure," Curtis said.

So for now, construction is a-go.  Whether or not it's all for the Hodges family, that's been put on hold.

Habitat For Humanity said they have postponed the home's dedication until further notice.

Tracy Watler/Reporting: tracy@kltv.com

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