Gate 15 risk analyst Omar Tisza volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. (Gate 15 photo)

From Homeland to Habitat: Giving Time to Strengthen Community Housing

Operationalizing security at a nation-state level is self-evident. But what do security and resiliency look like if taken from the nation-state macro to the micro local level? Specifically, how does resiliency play out in the context of our local communities, and is there anything we, as individuals, can do to strengthen community bonds?

The answer is yes, of course. My company, Gate 15, supports a paid week of charitable service, an incredible opportunity to dedicate 40 hours to a community service project in workers’ local area. I chose to embed myself in providing affordable and stable housing for families at my local Habitat for Humanity (HFH) chapter in the Northern Virginia area. HFH has opportunities to contribute to community house builds in which volunteers can donate time and resources to build a home for a family in need. Additionally, volunteering opportunities are available at the ReStore in Alexandria, Va., which takes household donations — from secondhand furniture to construction materials — and sells them to the public at a deeply discounted price. The proceeds are put towards increasing opportunities for affordable housing in high-need communities.

I chose to volunteer at the ReStore, and was humbled and moved by the generosity of donors, demand for affordable household items, and the tangible impact HFH has on the community. First, the high volume of donations that rolled in every day reassured my faith in the power of a robust and stable local community that works together to support those in need. Items ranging from office chairs to kitchen sinks were donated for individuals and families to buy at an accessible price. Second, the high demand in the community to access essential household goods at an affordable price. This is accentuated by the housing crisis and increasing cost of living, which harshly impacts vulnerable populations. Third but not least, the gratitude and fulfillment in the community as their housing needs are met. Seeing individuals supported by HFH was sobering and fulfilling. It reassured my belief in supporting, and being of service to, the local community.

The daily tasks for volunteers like myself involved a labor-intensive regiment of moving furniture, which requires a decent amount of cardio, stamina, and physical activity. Moving couches, filing cabinets, even kitchen cabinets and bathroom sinks was tiresome, but always fulfilling. Going home with sore muscles and a lifted heart, knowing I was helping the organization improve lives by contributing to affordable housing, was a great feeling. As a longtime resident of the D.C. metro area, I have experienced firsthand the trials and tribulations of securing decent and affordable housing. Giving time and energy to increase opportunities for affordable housing in my area felt personal and meaningful; I also aspire to become a homeowner myself in the future and have dealt with rising costs of living for renting in the area.

Lending a helping hand to a cause much larger than myself re-focused my understanding of service in our local communities as a force multiplier for good and a fantastic way to catalyze societal change from an individual perspective. I’m proud to be part of a company where a sense of service is deeply ingrained in our work and giving back to the community is a core part of the company ethos.

The views expressed here are the writers’ and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email HSTodayMag@gtscoalition.com. Our editorial guidelines can be found here.

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Omar Tisza graduated from American University in 2017 with a bachelor’s in International Relations. He began his role as Jr. Risk Analyst at Gate 15 in 2018 and currently supports the Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (H-ISAC) and the HSCC CWG under Executive Director Greg Garcia, former Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications at DHS.

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