Nonprofits Repair Homes for Seniors, Vets
By Dianne Anderson
In Long Beach, where about one-fourth of all homeowners are Black, many are on a fixed income, and any extra money lately is likely going for food and gas, not to fix leaky plumbing, electrical wiring or install a new floor.
Nancy Villasenor with Rebuilding Together Long Beach said that for struggling veterans, seniors or disabled homeowners, home repairs are about the last thing they can afford.
She said their nonprofit is small, but they are changing lives for the people they help.
“We had one woman living in her living room because she couldn’t access her bedroom and had her bed and belongings in the living room. That’s one example where we repaired her floor so she could sleep comfortably,” said Villasenor, secretary of the nonprofit.
Another disabled woman had a ramp designed and built so she could get safely into her mobile home, and one low-income senior had a fence falling apart outside of his property and racking up code enforcement violations.
Their nonprofit was able to come to the rescue.
“It ranges from all types of repairs, sometimes as people age, they lose mobility and may need grab bars in the bathrooms or other amenities to move around safely, with handrails and ramps,” she said.
Others may need exterior paint or yard work. If the nonprofit is already on site for a project, they bring in volunteers for yard clean up while their contractors work on the tasks that require skilled labor.
Usually, they do not have the funds for larger scope projects, but they assist with exterior small repairs, such as painting and general upkeep. Depending on available funding, $10,000 or less, she said they also repair electrical, air conditioning, or windows.
But only applications that involve health and safety hazard repairs are prioritized.
“If someone just wants new cabinets, for example, we’d probably say we’re going to pass,” she said. “We request proof of income to make sure they are in the low-income brackets, if it’s a grant we have to help veterans, we’ll check paperwork that they were enlisted and discharged.”
Although the nonprofit is small, she said it is life-changing for the people they help.
“One woman we helped couldn’t’ install a window unit in her home because the electrical was so old. She’s a single mom with two kids. Now, she’s going to be able to control the temperature and not be concerned about plugging stuff in her house,” she said.
The organization is volunteer-driven and they hire private contractors for bigger jobs on projects that range from $2,500 to $14,000. She is also excited to recently partner with Long Beach Water Department, enabling them to work with homeowners with identified leaks for free home repairs to help reduce high water bills.
When the pandemic was raging, they also were able to help one elderly man stay safe at home. He didn’t want to go to a convalescent home for fear of the virus.
“We’re different in that we try to keep people in their homes so they can age in place safely. We want them to live there for the rest of their life in a healthy and safe manner,” she said.
The local effort is an affiliate of the national Rebuilding Together, but there are other city programs or county projects filling the gap for low-income people in need of housing repairs.
Rebuilding grants are available to eligible owner-occupied single-family property owners from the city of Long Beach, which offers up to $20,000 to replace or repair a home roof through the Home Improvement Roof Grant Program at www.longbeach.gov/hirgp.
“The goal of the HIRGP is to improve the quality of life for very low-income property owners, specifically those on a fixed income, such as older adults, by helping homeowners acquire a safe and code compliant roof. To qualify, properties must be located in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Place-Based Neighborhood Improvement Strategy (PBNIS) and/or Racially and Ethnically Concentrated Area of Poverty (R/ECAP) areas of Long Beach,” the city website says.
Through the Los Angeles County Development Authority, additional free handyman work for minor home repairs is available in grants from $5,000 for unincorporated Long Beach residents in the First, Fourth, and Fifth Supervisorial Districts.
Applicants must be in a single-family residential property, be 62 years and older, be disabled, single head of household, or have a large family of over five people, and be listed on the title and grant deed.
Also serving District 4 in Long Beach, the Senior Grant Program helps with repairs for low-income seniors 62 and older. Grants are up to $15,000, and the program also finances maintenance repairs, including roofing and plumbing.
For more information on Rebuilding Long Beach, https://www.rebuildingtogetherlongbeach.org
For more information on grants and service areas, see