COOS BAY — Pride of ownership radiates from Vivian Holt’s home. Updated siding and modern windows keep the 1970s doublewide cozy. A picket fence encloses the tidy yard.
But when rainwater began pouring through the mobile home’s worn-out roof, the 89-year-old Coos Bay woman saw her home and her financial security at risk.
“It was really doing damage,” she said.
Holt found the help she needed at Habitat for Humanity, whose volunteers installed a handsome aluminum roof. The labor cost her nothing, and she makes monthly payments to Habitat for the materials.
Habitat, a non-denominational Christian organization, is best-known for building houses that turn low-income renters into fledgling homeowners. Less well-known is Habitat’s repair program, which restores livability to damaged or run-down homes.
Known nationally as “A Brush With Kindness,” the program is new to the Coos Bay area. It’s receiving a crucial boost this week, with a $10,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund.
Habitat is one of 44 local organizations sharing this year’s more than $360,000 in Coquille Fund grants. The fund has distributed nearly $5.9 million since 2001, paid for by proceeds from The Mill Casino.
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“Coos Bay Area Habitat for Humanity provides resources to families that might not be able to get help elsewhere,” said Jackie Chambers, the Tribe’s Community Fund assistant. “Things like roof repairs or a handicap-accessible ramp can be life-changing.”
In most cities, A Brush With Kindness focuses on painting. But Coos Bay’s Habitat chapter decided repairs were a more critical need. Habitat’s local executive director, Richard Litts, said roofs and ramps are common projects, along with leaky windows, sagging doors and rotting floors.
Fixing up an old house keeps a family in a healthy, comfortable environment at a fraction of the cost of building a new one. The need for help is strong in the Bay Area: Earlier this month, Habitat had a waiting list of 14 approved projects.
The program is available to people earning no more than 60 percent of Coos County’s median income. To stretch the program’s slender resources, Habitat asks most homeowners to pay for materials — a policy that reflects the group’s slogan, “A hand up, not a hand out.” The Tribal Fund’s grant will help cover costs for some of Habitat’s poorest clients, who can’t afford the cost of materials.
A Habitat project can have a huge positive impact on a family. Litts said moisture, mold and drafts can put health at risk, and living in a dilapidated structure can cause depression and family tension. Children may feel humiliated if friends visit.
“Just to have that safe, healthy place to come home to — a lot of us take that for granted,” he said. “And we shouldn’t.”