Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I was recently in a discussion about the poor state of repair of many single family homes and their properties. One point that was made is that many of the long time residents of Rogers Park are getting on in years and may no longer be physically or financially able to maintain the property. It made think of a moment in my own past.

My father is/was disabled when I was very young and was unable to maintain our family home as it should have been. After years of neglect and shoddy repair work, the house was in a bad way. Luckily, there were neighbors who lived in the community who were able to get charitable donations of labor and materials made to repair some of the home. They replaced the rotting front stairs, repaired a sagging floor, patched leaks in the roof, pruned trees and bushes and many other things.

Is there some sort of comunity program currently inplace that might allow us to assist those who currently are in the same boat? One home that comes to mind is on the southwest corner of Sheridan and Fargo. It's a beautiful old place and I have seen the owner just a few times. He seems to be in poor health.

Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated.


james said...

If the man needs something specific done, let me know and I will help you. I have alot of construction experience and equipment, though not loads of time. If a few of us get together, we could get something done pretty easily.

Michael K said...

Thank you for the offer. I am hesitant to approach him directly as I am sure he would be quite leary of strangers asking to take care of his house. I am just trying to put some feelers out there for organizations that do this kind of work. I think the organization that helped my family out all those years ago operated by taking suggestions from neighbors and then surveying the property to see what they can do.

Thomas Westgard said...

Hey, Michael, congrats on the blog.

Here's a little priming of the pump on some topics that we might could talk about at the gathering on Thursday.

Regarding actual construction projects: If Habitat for Humanity is any guide, we can put the volunteers together relatively easily (and count me in) but we're going to have a harder time with tools and materials. That's not a reason not to go forward, but it does provide us some guidance on what challenges we'll have to confront, and maybe on which projects are realistic for us to take on.

Regarding other things, like cleaning and yard work: These can be done more easily, but we'll have to approach the property owner(s). I agree it's difficult to do, but I think that on balance, it's better to offer and be rejected, than not to offer.

Also, given the family history you describe, I'm sure you know the need for an overall plan and support network. James and I were part of a group of maybe a dozen people who took on the job of assisting an elderly disabled person whose life had gotten into a mess. I'll leave that person's name out of the blogosphere, but lots of folks know about the project, about a year ago.

In the course of straightening things out there, we had to deal with the city Department of Aging, doctors, the landlord, and multiple family members, among others. We did extensive repair and cleaning, through and including rewiring most of the residence, and purchasing furniture that needed to be replaced.

The person we helped had been procrastinating about making some major life choices, and the ripple effects of that were causing a lot of the difficulty. We were fortunate that the person we were helping had the personal strength to recognize the challenges and work with us to find solutions that were acceptable and functional for all. As we identify situations and get involved with them, we will likely come across people who are mentally impaired in some fashion, which will probably make things harder.

When I think now about similar projects, the size of the project is not actually the deterrent it might seem to be. What would concern me would be the futility of trying to help some people piecemeal. We're not really doing someone a favor if we rake their lawn, but they're spending years trapped on the couch, alone and depressed, due to a mobility problem that isn't really being addressed. It's not always best to mask the outer signs of distress, with out digging a little deeper. We can do the little stuff, but I'd like to be prepared to address some bigger things too.

Michael K said...


Thank you for the feedback. It encourages me that others in the community have been involved in this type of activity.

How would we start? Should we approach a seniors group and ask if they are aware of people in our community that have asked for this type of assistance?

Carol Goldman said...

Michael K. This is response to your blog of Oct. 4, 2005. I would ask if you would consider this information as a new item for the blog rather than it be buried in a series of old comments. This is an amazing program, providing minor repairs in the homes of seniors at no charge at all - completely free.

From Carol Goldman

The federally funded H-RAIL program provides minor modifications for safety, security and accessibility, enabling seniors to �Age In Place�. It is available to the owners of single-family homes or condos. All work is done by licensed bonded contractors.

I administer the H-RAIL (Home Repairs for Accessible and Independent Living) program for the Rogers Park Community Council under a grant from the Department of Housing, City of Chicago. H-RAIL provides FREE minor repairs to income eligible seniors (60 years and up) in Rogers Park and West Ridge (40th, 49th, and 50th Wards). The program guidelines are generous, the income limits for single seniors are no more that $40,250 total income in a 12 month period, for a 2 person household $46,000, etc. I am presently taking applications for next years� program, which will begin approximately March/April 2006.

This program addresses problems in the interior of the home only; no exterior work is included in the guidelines.

For instance the program can provide grab bars, hand held showers, bath benches, non-skid tile floors, minor plumbing repairs, handicapped accessible toilets and other modifications to make life safer and accessible.

It can provide minor window repair or replacement, lock storm doors, replacement doors to make life more secure.

Please share this information with any seniors you think might need the services of H-RAIL.

For specific information they can call me, Carol Goldman at 773 743-1752 and talk with me about the modifications/repairs you need. I will tell you if it can be done by the H-RAIL program.