Neighborhood Home Repair Event Marks 25th Year
A program to restore the older housing stock in western Massachusetts through a series of neighborhood rebuilding projects is marking its 25th year this month.
Work is already under way on repairs to nearly a dozen houses on a single block in Springfield’s Old Hill Neighborhood – one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. The project will culminate this Saturday when 1,000 volunteers are expected to descend on the street to finish the construction, do some painting, haul away trash and spruce up yards.
The program run by Revitalize Community Development Corporation, called the GreenNFit Neighborhood Rebuild, focuses on the homes of low-income families, the elderly, and military veterans. The repairs are intended to help people stay in their homes by reducing energy costs and making the structures more safe and secure.
The home on Alden Street where Hazel Williamson, 89, the widow of a World War II veteran, lives has had a new roof put on, 21 new energy efficient windows installed, and repairs made to the front porch.
" Its a big help," Williamson said Tuesday, explaining that her house had fallen into disrepair because of a series of illnesses in her family
Williamson said the repairs to the house her parents bought in the 1940s will allow her to stay there until she can no longer live on her own.
" You can enjoy your home because it is comfortable and assessable and you stay here as long as you can," said Williamson.
Colleen Loveless, president and CEO of Revitalize CDC, said this year also marks the halfway point in a decade-long initiative to repair homes on 10 contiguous blocks in the Old Hill Neighborhood each year.
" It was not only impacted by the housing downtown in 2008 and 2009, but also by the tornado in 2011, many of the homes here had damage," explained Loveless.
In addition to the home repairs, this year’s project also includes repairs to a church, cleaning out vacant lots, creating a community garden, and painting several classrooms in a public middle school in the neighborhood.
" There is plenty of work for everybody," said Loveless.
The nonprofit organization receives through the city of Springfield $25,000 from the federal Community Development Block Grant program that President Trump has proposed to eliminate.
" If we did not have this type of funding you would have vacant foreclosed properties and its contagious in a bad way, and the work we do is contagious in a good way," said Loveless. "We are able to leverage that CDBG money at 4 to 1, so it is a great investment."
Since 1992, Revitalize CDC reports it has rehabilitated almost 600 homes in western Massachusetts.