Back in February, we announced that we had received a $120,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Office of Housing and Neighborhood Development at the City of Fort Wayne that would act as a volunteer empowerment tool that allows our volunteers to access the necessary funds to tackle larger projects such as roofs, furnaces, and other major projects where contractors or expensive materials were needed. We thought we'd send you an update on how that was grant was going.
Honestly, it's been disruptive, challenging, and at times it seems like more than we can handle. The amount of time and energy the on-ramping process has consumed has been overwhelming at times. As you can imagine, governmental grants come with tons of process and complex implementation strategies. The Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services at the City have been great to work with to clarify our questions and support us as we make our way through the initial projects. As a small, two-person organization, growth is challenging and at times make you want to avoid it.
However, that's extremely narrow thinking and an admittance that hard work is just hard work. As disruptive as this grant has been, it's been exactly what NeighborLink has needed in terms of helping us adapt to the changing landscape that is "housing." A large portion of housing in and around Fort Wayne is deteriorating, and the owners of these homes are not in a financial position to do anything about, which is a big issue for the entire community from our perspective, not just "their" problem.
You see, as our neighbors continue to age and enter into retirement gracefully or forcefully based on life's circumstances, living on a fixed income of $1000-$1500 a month is inevitable for far more neighbors than any of us in a stable, middle-class lifestyle are even aware of. That's barely enough money to cover food, medication, and living expenses, let alone home-maintenance. You might respond with, "why don't they just choose a more sustainable living situation," to which I would agree with you. But, they don't exist, or at least that many and in neighborhoods or apartment complexes that cater to a senior citizen.
So, this grant is important to us and important to the neighbors seeking assistance. We've had over 650 requests for projects in 2016 to date and it's not even May yet. We anticipate well over 2,000 requests by the end of the year. The worst part of that is that the needs are getting more complex. Three years ago the website was mostly yard work, cleaning and small jobs. Now, it's full of roofs, plumbing issues, porch repairs, and lots of projects where skill and money are needed. We're doing our best, but we need more volunteers who care about the vulnerable in our community who can help them with their need or with the idea of transitioning well.
As far as the grant..... We're currently working on 14 different projects with 5 of them that should begin work soon. Those 5 projects include 4 roofs and a house that needs some new windows. The other 9 projects are primarily roofs, but there are some foundation, wheelchair ramp, and sidewalk projects for disabled neighbors. We're hitting our stride and overcoming the barriers to project implementation that we've been facing.
We got some good news last week as far as working with contractors, which should help us greatly as we get to the phase where we need estimates and get projects done. We now can hire contractors through competitive bids, use them as consultants to work with our volunteers, and use the funding to buy materials for our volunteers. It essentially helps us remove the barriers for volunteers who want to help.
With complexity comes transformation. We learned a long time ago that when situations create tension, it's best to lean in rather than pull back, and that's what we're trying to do. NeighborLink is transforming and so are our staff. We care deeply about our neighbors in need, like Deborah who just wants to be able to get in and out of her house more easily. Or, Roy, who is doing his best to get a new roof for his house in an effort to protect his family and his asset. That stuff matters to us, to God, and is the opportunity see the Kingdom come to Earth as it is in Heaven.
We still need volunteers to initiate project and join us in this project. You can read more about that process here. The more volunteers that help us, the more we understand the dynamics of our model and whether we need to continue doing this program. This program has the potential to grow exponentially if we can prove the demand. Volunteers are essential to that process.
I'm happy to fill in any missing details if you're interested. Just send me an email with your questions.