NOTE: The Healing Houses Project is currently inactive due to lack of funding. I was able to fix Miss J's plumbing and most of the issues, but I was too far in the hole and wasn't able to completely finish. I hope to start it up again in 2020.
Well, here's how it started: Last fall, my partner and I moved to Wilkinsburg, a borough east of Pittsburgh, PA, a vibrant, but economically neglected neighborhood. Unlike what you might hear from the media, most people in "poor" neighborhoods work multiple jobs, yet still must be exceptionally frugal to keep their heads above the poverty level. This is especially difficult for homeowners; anyone that's owned a home knows that things are guaranteed to go wrong. As a result, many people working full-time don't earn enough to afford simple home repairs, which end up snowballing into major issues. ESPECIALLY minor plumbing issues.
Here's an example: My neighbor, Miss J, had a leaking toilet...for months (or longer)...before we moved into the neighborhood. The water, of course, leaked down into the kitchen below and now there is black mold in her ceiling (and other damage). I took a look at the toilet and literally only had to tighten the bolt to the tank to stop the leak. It took about 5 minutes, but you know a real plumber would charge at least $50. But now, the damage would be hundreds of dollars to fix.
If left unfixed, it could lead to even greater damage and significantly impact both the liveability and value of her home. Clearly, I'm not going to let that happen, so I'll fix her ceiling and the damage to her countertop as soon as I can afford the time and materials.
Another neighbor has a leak so bad that they keep the water main shut off unless they absolutely need it. She's retired and living on a fixed income - there is no way she can afford the repairs. In my mind, anyone that has worked their entire life deserves at least reliable running water in their retirement (if not a whole hell of a lot more). I will help her as well, but I need your help first.
So, here's what I'm asking:
*Regardless of the success of this campaign, I am going to fix these things, and fix other neighbor's houses, too.
*But, I don't have the money on-hand to afford the supplies, so they end up waiting until I do. I volunteer for a local political campaign, so I only earn money from side jobs.
*Your contribution will allow me to do these repairs ASAP and seek out other neighbors that need help.
*I at least need money for supplies (I have tools), but it'd be great to have my time compensated, to so that this can be my only "side job," and I'll hire others to help me.
*Maintaining homes will help to stabilize/increase property values in the area, which will increase the tax base and therefore facilitate other improvements. Eventually, I see this becoming a valuable community non-profit, but that big dream can only be reached with a little bit of help from you today.
I'll post pictures of before/after, and be completely transparent about the costs of materials and my time (and helpers if we get to that point). I'll even blog about it if people are interested in hearing the stories.
- Sonja Likumahuwa-Ackman
- Gina Addison
- MJ Schandelmeier
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