David Howard was not originally trained to build. He was trained to kill.
Howard was a sniper in the United States Marine Corps from 1979 to 1991 — until an injury changed his life, transforming him from Marine to civilian. It was a transformation that would change not only his life, but other lives — especially those who needed a decent home.
“I had a medical injury that put me in the hospital for about two years,” Howard recalled. “I came to looking at the ground. I was upside down. I had an epiphany. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to continue in the Marine Corps. I was thrust into society as a civilian after being a Marine for 12 years.”
After leaving the hospital and the Corps, Howard struggled to find his way. But he knew he wanted to help others, and he found the affordable housing movement started by Millard Fuller suited him perfectly.
“In doing what I was doing, I was isolated from normal people. I’ve had some really wonderful Habitat mentors over the years, Millard being one of them. And some Habitat leaders in Charlotte really helped me gear down that military attitude and turn it into an expression of love. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
After working with Habitat for 26 years, Howard will now be the president of the newly formed Fuller Center for Housing of Los Angeles. He said he feels like he is fulfilling a promise he made to Fuller.
“Before Millard died, he and I were talking about starting a Fuller Center partner in Bellingham, Washington, where I was at the time,” he said. “It wasn’t even two weeks later that he died. I wanted to perpetuate Millard’s mission based on the original mission and the original plan and what it was supposed to be and keep it at that.”
That is why he joined The Fuller Center ranks. It also allows him to continue helping others achieve the dream of having a simple, decent home.
“For me it started as making amends and cleaning up from some of the stuff I did from behind a sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” Howard said. “It evolved into a passion and a love for God’s people.”
For now, that love for God’s people will be shown mostly in the Long Beach area of Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the nation with more than 9.8 million residents.
“I think we’re going to start in Long Beach and work our way out,” he said. “There’s such a huge, huge need in this area. Most of the population of homeless and under-housed people live in Long Beach and the southern LA County area. It’s also an area to keep us from overlapping with the Los Angeles affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. In the future, we may be able to work concurrently with them and have a mutual effort.”
Kirk Lyman-Barner expects The Fuller Center to be able to make an impact in Los Angeles County with Howard at the helm.
“He’s generated a lot of interest, and it’s great to see so much interest in an area with so much need,” Lyman-Barner said. “With David’s background in construction and his heart for helping people, we expect this to be a very successful effort.”