“Never in my wildest dreams”
Alexander homeowner of 44 years now can live safely navigate her property, thanks to Habitat’s Home Repair program.
Alexander homeowner of 44 years now can live safely navigate her property, thanks to Habitat’s Home Repair program.
If you ask Austin Brown about his favorite moment as a volunteer with Asheville Habitat, his answer might sound like a platitude: “they all are.” But that is not a brush-off.
The Asheville Habitat Home Repair Program is an affordable housing superstar that tends to stay out of the spotlight while having a huge impact on our communities. It is integral in improving affordable housing in our area as it helps low income and older adult residents live better in their homes, for longer. Whether fixing a leaky roof, installing a ramp, or replacing heating systems, Asheville Habitat’s affordable home repairs enable homeowners to live safely, and with dignity, where it may otherwise have been financially out of reach. Home repair preserves the character, affordability, and diversity in our local neighborhoods and allows long-time residents to stay in their most affordable option- the home they already own, and avoid being priced out of their community. It is clear why this type of affordable housing program is vital to our community and why 75% of the families served through Asheville Habitat are home repair clients.
In an effort to learn more about the impact of home repair on the lives of our clients, as well as learn how the program can improve, Asheville Habitat AmeriCorps member Jessica Gustines, recently conducted a survey of 103 households who were served through the Home Repair program between 2018 and 2021. Between March, 2018 and July, 2021, the Asheville Habitat Home Repair program completed 135 repair jobs through a broad range of services, including accessibility modifications, heating/cooling systems repair, roof repair, floor repair, interior and exterior repairs, and exterior painting/staining. Jessica personally chatted with over 100 families, verbally collecting feedback on various parts of the Home Repair program process. Families were asked to rank on a scale of 1-5, how the repair job impacted various aspects of their life in their home. The biggest impacts were in the safety and longevity of clients homes with the enjoyment of their homes close behind. However, every category scored above a 4.5 (out of 5), a very telling outcome!
Jessica recalls that outside of the high rankings in all the categories, many clients were effusive in their praises of the program. She heard many times how kind, courteous, and diligent the team was and how happy the clients were to have the team working in their homes. She also heard many times that the families would not have been able to get the repairs done without Habitat’s affordable program, and families expressed much gratitude for making repairs possible for them.
The survey revealed overwhelmingly positive results- confirming both the great need for affordable home repair and the quality of the work done by Asheville Habitat’s program. Home repairs done through the AAHH program are not free, but because of generous donors, sponsors and grants, the cost is significantly lower, and families are set up with a short-term payment plan they can afford. In fact, the data collected by this survey has been used to secure future funding to continue to grow this much needed service in our community.
After completing the survey process, Jessica commented, “It’s obvious the need is great and our program is successfully addressing that need. But I know that despite our best efforts there are many people and repairs we cannot serve or address. I think the repair program is really important for maintaining affordability though preserving the existing stock of affordable homes in the area. It is essential work to take care of the people that have been living here their whole lives. While there are a few other affordable repair programs in the area, it’s definitely an issue that could use more attention, manpower, and resources.”
If you would like to sponsor a home repair through Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, contact Beth Russo at 828-407-4487 or email email@example.com.
Carolyn knew it was time to do something about her floor when she had to move heavy furniture off of it and avoid walking on it altogether. Fearful she would fall through and injure herself, she turned to Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair program. She was no stranger to Habitat because Carolyn served as a ReStore volunteer for four years.
A reflection by Jennie Goldenberg, an AmeriCorps member who works on the Home Repair team.
“Recently we had a huge home repair project that involved fixing about 60% of our client’s home. He has cerebral palsy and had been living independently for about ten years. He unfortunately was not able to keep up with the house and in turn the framing had sunk in and it was not healthy for him to live there anymore. By working on the 60% of his house, we were able to get him a workable area that he could live in again. It was one of the toughest projects to date, but it was also the most gratifying.
His kitchen before the remodel was in disarray, and nothing was able to be used to making a nutritious meal. We were able to install new cabinets, lighting, and a stove, with a safe and level floor. He had been sleeping in a chair in his living room, not utilizing either one of the two bedrooms that were in the house. We were able to take the back bedroom and stabilize the flooring so that it would no longer be falling; we made it completely level so that it was safe for him to walk. We completely remodeled his bathroom, with a new washer, dryer, shower and vanity. The washer and dryer were set up correctly, therefore not as much of a fire risk as the ones before. The shower was converted into a walk-in shower with handrails, so that he has less probability of falling when getting in. By getting all of these individual parts of his house fixed, we have given him the ability to continue to live his life in the home that has been passed down through his family.
Upon completion, he and his mother came to see what the finished product looked like. Co-workers Chris and Pete and I took the tour with them, and we were able to see their reaction to a completely different looking house. They had so much gratitude for us and were amazed at how much we were able to get done in a month. At the end of the tour we all held hands and had a moment of peace and togetherness. I could tell that he and his mother were so grateful that he was going to be able to continue to live in the home that he spent most of his adult life. This is a project that I really felt like we were going to have a lasting impact on their family, and ultimately create a better life for him.”
To learn more about the client (Victor) and see photos of his renovated home, click here.
Interested in serving as an AmeriCorps member with us starting in August 2020? Click here to see the open positions with Asheville Habitat and apply.
By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist
A home is more than a roof and four walls. Homeownership is the primary way Americans accumulate wealth. This is true for Victor, a retired forklift driver and Asheville High graduate, who inherited the Oakley home from his great aunt in 2018. Victor’s grandfather built this home with his own two hands in 1944.
Home can be a safe and healthy haven, but for Victor, he found himself living in an old home with a growing laundry list of repairs including heavily deteriorating floors and walls with moisture-ridden wood, and faulty plumbing. Victor’s cerebral palsy means he is unable to repair and upkeep with the growing number of problems in his home, even with family regularly checking in and assisting him.
Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair team demolished the kitchen, back bedroom, and bathroom to repair the floor framing and install vapor barriers and insulation. New subflooring and vinyl flooring were installed and plumbing was fixed in the bathroom and kitchen. While new and sturdy floors gave the three rooms a whole new feel, new kitchen appliances and fresh paint and trim really made the place shine. Victor and his family expressed how much they love the work that was done. Victor can now live safer and with dignity in his family’s home.
The routine of showing up to swing a hammer or lay flooring alongside a community of volunteers, staff, and future homeowners is for many Habitat volunteers as ingrained in their daily life as their weekly trip to the grocery. As if the cancellation of all volunteer participation on jobsites wasn’t interruption enough for our volunteers, there was another meaningful tradition within this weekly routine that was interrupted as well.
A reflection by Chris Nolan, an AmeriCorps member who works on the Home Repair team.
“Here at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, the first half of my year of service has felt like coming home to a place I’ve never been. In my first job out of college, I worked on a farm whose customer base was primarily people of considerable privilege, I loved the work I was doing and the people I worked with, but felt that overall what I was doing was lacking in impact and mission. Since leaving my home state I have been looking for that community and satisfaction from a hard day’s work that I felt on the farm, and after a few years of searching ended up where I am now.
Here on the Home Repair team, the work we do every day has a visible, tangible, and sometimes emotional impact on some of the most underserved and unseen members of our community. In this role I have begun to learn exactly the sort of skills I need, from framing to finishing and everything along the way. I am starting to see a house as not just a big box but a structure with layers, shedding water, bearing weight. And I have gotten to hear stories and perspectives from homeowners whose existence I would otherwise be entirely ignorant of.
In Home Repair our experiences with homeowners can range wildly. Take for instance: after completing one project, I learned that one of the home residents had died the following weekend. At another project, the conditions in which the homeowner was living before our repair had me saddened and upset through dinnertime. At another, the homeowner baked us fresh cookies, played Vivaldi while we worked, and every day offered us oranges, local apples, or baked sweet potato wedges while telling us stories from her life which spanned from coast to coast, with multiple careers and degrees along the way; at yet another, the elderly homeowner was more than eager to pick up a shovel and help us move hundreds of pounds of gravel. What we see here is real, what we learn is real, and what we do is real. And it is exactly where I want to be and what I want to be doing. So to Habitat and AmeriCorps, I say thank you for the chance to be right here.”
Want to hear from other AmeriCorps members who have worked with us in the past? Watch this video.
By Ariane Kjellquist, with contributions from Sydney Monshaw
Like most of our Home repair clients, Ms. Priscilla McDowell is an aging adult in need of home improvements that improve access and safety. Our Home Repair team recently tackled the job of completely rebuilding two large, crumbling and unsafe porches at Ms. McDowell’s home. This included removing the existing structures and building a smaller deck and landing with less steep stairs. Thanks to a crew of four volunteers from Beach Hensley Homes, the project was completed ahead of schedule. “I was planning to spend at least a week at this job,” shared Project Supervisor Sydney Monshaw. “With Beach Hensley’s help we were able to complete this project in just three days!”
Their volunteers arrived on Wednesday to the old decks already removed and footers for the new one ready to go. In the first hour, the deck was framed and the posts were set. By lunch break everything had decking, the stairs were hung, and handrails had been started. By the time the Beach Hensley crew left at 4:45pm (staying later than needed because they wanted to get it done) they had the entire porch completed, with the exception of one stair tread and three kick plates. And that work was only outstanding because they ran out of materials! With just a handful of very small things to finish the following day, this 5-day job was done in just 2 ½ days!
It’s not surprising that a team of professional contractors work more quickly and efficiently than a staff supervisor and a few volunteers with less or no construction experience. Habitat is used to working with volunteers that run the gamut from never having used a saw to trade professionals that could do the work in their sleep. But this crew brought added-value in the form of knowledge sharing. They took a minute here and there to explain why they were making certain choices. Sydney said, “As the supervisor of this jobsite, I am grateful for their efficiency, skill, and knowledge. As a member of the greater Asheville community, I am grateful for their generosity and willingness to give back. Ms. McDowell is not only safer because of them, she’s also proud and excited about her new back porch.”
Home Repair for low-income homeowners is a significant and growing community need. The population of aging adults in Buncombe County continues to grow, and one of the best ways to help residents live with more safety, security and dignity as they age, is to help them remain in the homes they already own. To try to keep up with demand, we have grown our repair program by adding a second supervisor and a second work van, and we continue to utilize three AmeriCorps members. We increased our goal mid-year from 60 to 70 jobs. Additionally, we manage “Aging in Place”, a sort of program-within-a-program, that serves clients that come to us through a partnership with The Council on Aging. And this year, we did a community project with Poder Emma, in which we served 25 families in one day, and trained community members to serve another 75 with security and safety upgrades.
As you can see, being able to complete a project in half the time is a substantial win for a program with aggressive goals and a team stretched thin. If your business of trade professionals can spare just one day to volunteer on a Habitat Home Repair project, we would LOVE to have you! Asheville Habitat has committed to serving another 1,000 families within 10 years and 600 will be through Home Repair. Be part of our success story! To learn more, call 828.210-9383 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of PODER EMMA and staff from Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair team came together to protect manufactured home residents and build community by having a community safety day to install new door security plates and solar-powered, motion-activated lighting.
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