For several years, NeighborLink has partnered with the City of Fort Wayne’s Division of Community Development/Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services to help execute a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is common for home repair needs of our neighbors to exceed the skills of our volunteers. The funds from this grant are used to secure the skilled labor needed to support our volunteer efforts.
Funds are limited to $7,500 per project and the homeowner must qualify for the program. Qualification for CDBG dollars is based on income and then initiation/completion is based on the order in which NeighborLink volunteers select projects and notify NeighborLink staff of a need for contractors. If costs exceed $7,500, a homeowner can pay or fundraise for the balance.
Projects have included roof replacements, exterior painting, foundation repairs, tree removal, siding replacement, and more. Each project has a special meaning to the homeowner, who often has no other options to complete the repairs. Deb’s project was no exception.
Deb has some health and mobility issues making even just maneuvering around her two-story house a laborious task. Like many older homes, the only bathroom is on the second floor and lacks proper features to assist with accessibility. Deb had a small, stand-up, single shower stall that became virtually impossible for her to use. Without access to a proper bath or shower, Deb's mobility issues began to take over her life. Not to mention, all while being confined to her home in a pandemic except for doctors' appointments. (As we have said before, COVID-19 has been particularly hard on the disabled and elderly, who were already experiencing high levels of isolation.) Deb's neighbor reached out to us to see if we could help remodel her bathroom. Deb qualified for the CDBG grant and our work began.
We secured quotes from several contractors with the goal of replacing Deb’s shower with a walk-in tub. We moved forward with Windows, Doors & More (WDM) to do the work. The total estimate exceeded the limit and they worked with us to get it under $7,500. We arranged for volunteers to complete the demo work under budget.
A few weeks before Christmas, our volunteers completed the demo, and WDM worked their magic to prep the bathroom and install a new, jetted, walk-in tub for Deb. We are very grateful for the work of WDM. While the basic features of the tub worked, they initially had issues with the electrical in connecting the jets. (Old homes + old electrical = no fun for anyone.) Their crew worked tirelessly, coming back four times until they were able to get it all functioning.
I had the privilege to check-in on Deb after the tub’s installation. I cannot begin to describe the change I saw in Deb's demeanor since being able to enjoy her own bathtub (and even before the jets were fixed). She was beaming! Her face was brighter. Deb told me how she could even see improvement in her skin and circulation. The tub, combined with the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine, brought hope to Deb after a year of seemingly unending hopelessness. She felt motivated to tackle a few other projects she had been delaying. To have had even the smallest part in facilitating this hope for Deb was quite an immense feeling for me. It has been my pleasure getting to know Deb and hearing her crazy stories of her previous adventures (she went to Woodstock!). She has sent several texts and notes professing her immense gratitude. We were equally happy to be able to utilize this program to help.
Small things really do change neighborhoods, and—equally important—neighbors.