Volunteers help nonprofit keep roofs over heads

Using no-interest loans, volunteer labor and sweat equity from owners, Habitat for Humanity has, until now, bought land and built homes from the ground up. That’s changed. Now they’re also doing “critical home repair” for low-income owners who could never afford it.

This relieves blight, raises neighborhood morale and enables them to stay in their homes, says Denise James, executive director of HFH Rogue Valley.

The program is perfect for Ashland, where buildable land is scarce and expensive, but there are many declining low-end homes going back to the cheaper days of the mid-20th century, says James.

“If they’re low-income,” she notes, “home repairs are the last thing they have money for.”

In addition, Ashland has lots of volunteers and they want to work in town, she says.

Volunteers are busy this week on a three-bedroom frame home on Avery Street, where New Leaf raised six children. It’s getting an extended roof to prevent water from rotting siding and foundation, and also double pane windows, internal foam siding and affordable heating.

“This is wonderful, absolutely fantastic,” exclaims Leaf, who cooks for the crew and does cleanup and small jobs on the house. “These are such beautiful people, so life-affirming. It’s a joy to work with them and watch everyone coordinate and learn a lot about building. I don’t know what I would have done without them. It was in really bad shape.”

James explains that HFH uses no government money and that Leaf will repay the loan at affordable monthly amounts over 10 or 12 years.

“Our job is to eliminate substandard housing,” says James, and such jobs usually include roofing, insulation, plumbing repair, windows and heating.

The program is aimed at repairs greater than $3,000. For smaller jobs, able to be done in a day or two and costing under $3,000, HFH has another new program, “A Brush With Kindness.” It’s for such projects as painting, fences, landscaping, handicap ramps.

HFH gets much funding from foundations and individual donors. The present funding was a Community Development Block Grant of $41,000 from the city of Ashland. It will go for two Critical Home Repairs and 10 Brush With Kindness projects.

Leaf has gas heat, but it’s been to expensive for her to use, so she’s been building a fire in a small stove, says job supervisor Dan Thomas, a former contractor. Her kids often doubled up in beds.

“When we’re done, this house should last another 40 years,” he adds.

Volunteer Bonnie Rott, who has pounded nails in Women Build, says she’s putting those new skills to work as a volunteer for HFH and enjoying it a lot.

Volunteer Bob Noyes, who works two days a week, says he is looking for something that contributes to the community and he has the skills to do it.

“It’s a great place to learn building,” he says.

The Avery project will be done in a few weeks and HTF is taking applications for more, from people in the range of 40 to 60 percent of median income. However, says James, not a lot of potential applicants are aware of the program. For more information, call 541-779-1983 or go to www.roguevalleyhabitat.org.

Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at [email protected].

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