Imagine living in the same house for the past 50 years.
Now, imagine living in that same house without being able to upgrade or repair anything.
Unfortunately, that’s the reality thousands of disabled, senior, or low income individuals are facing in Chicago right now.
But that’s also the reality UCAN and Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago (RTMC) are trying to change.
“Warm, safe and dry,” Lisa Miranda, program director at RTMC, says. “That’s our mantra.”
Miranda, along with five other staff members, operates the Chicago affiliate of Rebuilding Together, a nation-wide program aiming to provide free, essential renovations and repairs to homes of low-income individuals, disabled, senior or child-rearing applicants across the country to make their homes livable and safe.
Founded in 1991, Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago has since repaired 1,600 homes and 250 community facilities across Chicagoland. Each year, RTMC selects two towns: one in Chicago proper, and the other in a local suburb, and then begins the applicant process. Typically, RTMC focuses on low-income, disabled, senior or child-rearing applicants, aiming to make their homes livable and safe.
“I’ll never forget: April the 24th!” Viola Kelly, a homeowner in North Lawndale, recalls of her experience on National Rebuilding Day 2017. “I really had good, good, business from them. They were so nice and so sweet, and if I didn’t have them, I couldn’t afford this.” Viola’s home was renovated with new tiles, fresh paint, a finished bathroom, a new refrigerator, new electrical wiring, an updated porch and a new couch (her favorite part).
“You hear a lot of people say, ‘You know, I didn’t think it was real, but I filled [the application] out anyway!'” Miranda laughs, recalling many of her experiences with applicants. She explains how, for many low income people, it simply sounds too good to be true: completely free and comprehensive repairs on homes that, more often than not, haven’t seen renovations in decades.
“Sometimes if you’re having problems in your home, it can seem insurmountable,” Miranda explains, “but, seeing some things change, with a lot of hard work, but also so quickly, really empowers [homeowners].”
In fact, many community members have found National Rebuilding Day to be a catalyst for further community renovations.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Janelle Brown, a 2016 homeowner remembers. “Everything is beautiful. I couldn’t recognize my own house.” Her home, located in the Robbins in the south suburbs, was fitted with safety rails, security doors, electrical outlets, new light fixtures, paint and flooring.
The 2018 National Rebuilding Day is on April 28th, and will focus on North Lawndale and another to-be-determined location.
To volunteer with UCAN on Rebuilding Day, contact Janella.Curtis@Ucanchicago.org.
By: Carly Hanson