Habitat For Humanity's Preservation Program


by Jessica Tighe

Habitat for Humanity is now hard at work on its new preservation program. The organization is well-known for building new homes, but this program focuses on making repairs to current homes.

Ze Vang has lived in her house in the Washington Park neighborhood for more than two decades. This is where her heart is, but the house has some problems.

"We're dealing with a bunch of code issues like lead paint which we'll get to later on. We have to scrape all the woodwork around the house and porches so there's lead in that. We're going to have to be super careful, so we're taking every precaution," Denise Braun, one of the volunteers helping repair Ze's home explains.
The Habitat team is making critical repairs to the house, making sure it's up-to-code and making it affordable to live in for the long-term.

"One of the things we've done on this house is roof repair and that's going to be the case in a lot of the homes we do. If you don't have a good roof, everything else you do on the home is going to suffer," Brian Sonderman, Executive Director for Milwaukee Habitat says.

The volunteers are also removing asbestos siding and giving this home a brand new look!

Ze is getting a little sweaty as well. She can't do the major repair work, but she's helping with the cleanup and providing the volunteers with refreshments.

"She's amazing. It's awesome getting to know all of our homeowners. They're just so sweet and so welcoming and it's just really heartfelt knowing that we're helping them out and how appreciative they are towards us," Braun says.

Ze will also payback a portion of the repair costs.

"The Habitat model is always not to provide hand-outs, but a hand-up. That principle has been very-well received in Washington Park. People want to be engaged in making this neighborhood a better place for themselves and their children," Sonderman says.

That's part of the reason Habitat picked Washington Park as its first target for the preservation program. The other part is simply the neighborhood's need. It has a high number of foreclosed and rundown homes.

"That results in an increase in crime, it drops property values and it just drops the sense of optimism and hope that people have. So when we can begin to address critical repair by acquiring and doing rehab projects along with new contstruction, it does make an economic impact and also lifts spirits of everyone in the neighborhood," Sonderman explains.

They're certainly lifting Ze's spirits. She says she's grateful for Habitat's help. "They do a good job at fixing my house for me. Every day, I see everybody come here and I'm so happy!"

For more information on the preservation program and to see if you might be eligible, go to www.milwaukeehabitat.org/pages/view/becoming/6.



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