Finding Health through Home Repairs


By Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley

Thousands of Bay Area families and seniors with limited incomes are struggling to stay in their homes as critical home repair needs stack up beyond their ability to keep up. This inability to upkeep a home threatens families with displacement or unsafe living conditions.

Habitat’s Home Preservation Program offers a broad array of services to qualified homeowners – whether it’s a new roof, an accessibility ramp, or a fresh coat of paint – to not only prevent displacement but also improve the homeowner’s health and wellbeing.

Jon McPherson, our Home Preservation team’s Construction Manager, shares how he sees, firsthand, our repairs transforming homeowners’ homes and lives.

“Health and wellbeing manifests itself in many ways, including the ways you can’t see. One of the mental health threats our seniors experience is loneliness and isolation.

One Client of ours shared that she felt too ashamed of the condition of her house and the smell coming from her kitchen floor to ever invite anyone over. So we had the objective of finding and eliminating the source of wetness and foul odor in the kitchen floor. We removed the cabinets in the area and found that rodents had chewed through the drain pipe behind the cabinet in the wall, which was soaking the plywood subfloor. The damage was deep, and required replacing all the cabinets and flooring.

When we completed our work, as I was doing the final inspection, our Client told me that her sister was coming over for lunch – and even though they lived in the same town, her sister hadn’t been to the house for three years. But now, she was proud to host! The good we do goes beyond the things we repair.

Many of our Clients’ repairs, especially repairs we complete in partnership with Renew Alameda County, address problems in high-use areas, such as kitchens and baths, and step in where deferred maintenance has caught up with the structure.

All of the barriers between the inside and the outside – such as roofs, windows, and doors – often need attention because water leaks can be very destructive. Wet materials often develop mold and mildew, foul smells, and structural weakness. In severe cases, leaks in the kitchen and bath can make the floor wet and slippery, increasing the chance of slips and falls.

Almost all bathroom improvements include installation of grab bars in the shower, ADA height toilets, and changing the tub/shower combo to a walk-in shower, all intended to prevent falls and improve accessibility.

Common kitchen repairs include changing the sink and faucets, and often the countertops at the same time. Cracked tile and missing grout are unsanitary and very hard to keep clean, and cracks and gaps that can develop between the countertop and the backsplash have the same problem. We often repair or replace base and wall cabinets that have come apart, or have drawers that no longer work. This improves access to pots, pans, and kitchen tools, and supports organized, clean living. 

Home Repair - Sink

Replacing the windows – which are usually aluminum framed, single glazed units – with dual glazed insulation vinyl units makes a big improvement in heating and air conditioning, as well as making the home quieter. 

Repairing or installing hand rails and guard rails at stairs and decks is a common task for us, all intended to improve stability, reduce falls, and encourage movement. Uneven or cracked walkways can be a fall hazard, and we often address this problem with new concrete walkways. For our mobility impaired Clients, we can provide wheelchair ramps and power lifts.

All of the repairs we do have one thing in common – they represent a problem and a point of stress for the homeowner. These problems become overwhelming and feel unsurmountable, especially for seniors on a fixed income.

When we complete our work, our clients have a safer and healthier habitat, and have a reason to know that they are not alone in this world.”

Jeri blog - Home Preservation

 

About the Author

Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley

As an independent affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley believes in a world where everyone has a decent place to live. We create opportunities for families to transform their lives, gaining the strength, stability, and self-reliance they need to build a better future. Working together as a community, we build homes with affordable mortgages, repair and renovate existing homes, counsel first-time homebuyers, and revitalize neighborhoods in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara counties. For more information, please call 866.450.4432.

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