By Amanda Ensinger
A local non-profit is improving homes on the Westside one neighborhood at a time.
Rebuilding Together, a home repair program that aims to make sure low income families and seniors have a safe home to live in, has been donating thousands of dollars to improve the Westside for years.
Currently, the program is focusing their efforts on Prairie Township and announced that they will once again be improving homes in the Little Farms neighborhood in 2019.
“This is the first time we are going back to a neighborhood again and doing improvements,” said Julie Smith, executive director of Rebuilding Together. “We are revisiting this neighborhood and making further improvements at the request of the township trustees.”
In 2018, Rebuilding Together did improvements to the Little Farms neighborhood during their annual Rebuilding a Healthy Neighborhood volunteer event. During the event, 640 volunteers improved homes in the neighborhood. These improvements ranged from electrical and plumbing updates to furnace and hot water tank replacements to fire safety and fall prevention improvements.
In total in 2018, Rebuilding Together improved 30 homes and invested $400,000 in the neighborhood, including contributed time, skilled labor and in-kind contributions.
“We will be in Prairie Township for three years and our goal is to improve 75 homes,” Smith said. “We are focusing on Little Farms again in 2019 because of the serious deep need for these improvements.”
According to Smith, Little Farms is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the township and has one of the oldest populations. This means the while the homes have been well maintained, they need updated just because of their ages and many residents just don’t have the extra funds to make these improvements.
“Forty years ago, the American dream was to own a home and these people did the right thing and invested in these homes,” Smith said. “A home can be your biggest asset, but it also can be your biggest liability.”
Smith added that most of these seniors and low-income families live on fixed incomes and don’t have extra money to pay for these improvements.
To be eligible for the program you must be below the median income. For example, a family of four would need to make less than $43,050 a year to be eligible for the program.
“Last year, the average income in the neighborhood was $21,000 a year,” Smith said. “When you are only making $21,000 a year, you can’t afford to fix a bathroom or drainage issues.”
Rebuilding Together also asks communities to invest as well if they come into their community. In 2018, Prairie Township invested an additional $50,000 into the program and agreed to invest an additional $50,000 in 2019.
“We expect communities to invest in their neighborhoods and put some skin in the game,” Smith said. “This investment includes money, promoting the program and helping to recruit volunteers.”
The program has been going on for 12 years and previous communities they have helped include the Hilltop, Whitehall and Linden.
According to Smith, all volunteers are welcomed regardless of home improvement experience.
“Anyone over 14 years old is welcome to volunteer and we welcome everyone,” Smith said. “Helping with these projects also teaches you about home improvements you can do to your own home and makes you the best homeowner because you learn how to fix things yourself.”
The 2019 volunteer event will take place all day May 4, 2019. Volunteers can sign up for a half day or full day.
For more information on Rebuilding Together, visit www.rebuildingtogether.org.