April 24, 2019

This organization helps keep seniors in their homes by providing free repairs

For 33 years, over 28,000 Rebuilding Together DC • Alexandria volunteers have repaired more than 2,200 homes and public spaces in their community.

For retirees and older adults on fixed incomes, aging in place can be costly. The nonprofit Rebuilding Together has affiliates across the country that provide free critical home repairs for low-income homeowners.

Affordable housing is receiving a lot of attention these days from journalists and policymakers alike—and rightly so. There is an affordable housing crisis in many communities around the country, but particularly in the Washington metropolitan area. Often, the focus of news coverage and policy proposals is the creation of new affordable housing units. Just as important, however, is the preservation of the affordable housing that currently exists.

This is particularly important for retirees and older adults. Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65. As our community’s homeowners get older and age in place, housing cost burdens rise while they continue to live on fixed incomes. And all the while, many of these older adults can’t afford to move to a new house or apartment.

Even if they did have the means to move, many of them wouldn’t want to leave their current homes. Some have been living in their homes for decades. They’ve raised families in those homes. They’ve built memories there. They’ve gotten to know their neighbors and have grown attached to their neighborhoods and communities. Many of our clients have told us that they love their homes and don’t want to live anywhere else.

Some older adults have limited mobility in their own home. Older adults with low incomes often can’t afford a new chair lift, grab bars in their shower, or other items that could significantly improve their mobility and safety. Many older adults also can’t afford expensive repairs—such as replacing a furnace—that drastically impact their health and quality of life.

Older adults on a low, fixed income often have to make the choice between paying for a critical home repair they need to continue living safely in their home and paying for prescriptions, groceries, transportation, and more.

That’s where we come in.

Rebuilding Together DC • Alexandria relies on the expertise and generosity of its volunteers.

Our organization, Rebuilding Together DC • Alexandria, provides free critical home repairs for low-income homeowners in Washington, DC and Alexandria, Virginia, including older adults, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and families with children. We also renovate community spaces such as parks and schools, and we provide homeownership opportunities for first-time, low-income buyers. For 33 years, over 28,000 volunteers have repaired more than 2,200 homes and public spaces, leveraging $8.8 million worth of in-kind value.

From roof and furnace replacements, to smoke detector and fire extinguisher installations, to mold and asthma trigger removal, to plumbing and electrical repairs, our work prevents hundreds of local homeowners from being one expensive home maintenance bill away from unnecessary illness, a missed mortgage payment, bankruptcy, or homelessness.

Behind our approach is a simple, powerful idea: neighbors helping neighbors. Community members set aside a few hours of their day, put on a tool belt, and make direct, tangible improvements in the lives of those in need—one home, one family, one neighborhood at a time.

We accomplish this on a mass scale. Each year, over 1,100 community volunteers repair more than 100 homes throughout DC and Alexandria—all at no charge to the homeowners. At our flagship volunteer event on April 27, National Rebuilding Day, over 700 volunteers will repair 41 homes in DC and Alexandria.

We join over 100 Rebuilding Together affiliates nationally and nearly 100,000 volunteers to complete about 10,000 rebuild projects each year. Last April, more than 30,000 volunteers donated 230,000 hours of service to residents in need across the country through Rebuilding Together affiliates. (Editor’s note: we recently featured the Houston affiliate, read about them here.)

One older adult we’ve served, Thomas, is an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War. His parents moved into their Alexandria home in 1949, and Thomas has lived in the house for 55 years. He is a double-amputee and is mostly dependent on a wheelchair now. To accommodate his disability, Thomas has handicap rails on all stairways, grab bars in his bathroom, a wheelchair on each floor, a wheelchair ramp off the back deck, a first floor bedroom, and hardwood floors.

Thomas is thankful for many things, including all the repairs that we’ve completed for him over the years. Community volunteers built a wheelchair ramp, repaired his front door, built a deck, filled a sinkhole in the driveway, and much more.

“It has been amazing to see the transformation,” Thomas told us. “It is hard to look back now and calculate just how much Rebuilding Together has improved the quality of my life.”

By completing these home repairs, we were able to help Thomas continue living safely in the most affordable home to him: his own. And with the support of community members, we can preserve affordable housing for even more low-income homeowners in our community—enabling them to stay in the homes they love.

Please consider making a generous donation to help us provide free critical home repairs for even more low-income homeowners in D.C. and Alexandria. Volunteering and employee engagement opportunities are also available year-round for businesses, faith-based institutions, nonprofits, and individuals. Learn more at www.rebuildingtogetherdca.org. Contact us at info@rebuildingtogetherdca.org or 703-836-1021 with any questions.

Katharine Dixon

Rebuilding Together DC • Alexandria

Katharine Dixon is president and CEO of Rebuilding Together DC • Alexandria. She has been with the organization since 2003 and has more than 25 years of project management experience. She sits on the Alexandria Housing Affordability Advisory Committee and the Leadership Council of Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, and has held leadership roles on the Alexandria Council of Human Services Organizations, the Alexandria Housing Master Plan Committee, and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.
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