Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1069665

Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 25, 2014

Habitat offers program

Better Block Program can offer assistance to improve homes
By David Hotle | Oct 16, 2013

Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity is partnering with the City of Washington to develop a new program inspired by the former Washington Housing Task Force called the Better Block Program.
Margie Roth, Washington County Liaison for Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity, said that the idea of the new program is to improve Washington’s housing on a block-by-block basis.
“The focus will be on homeowners who are lower income – possibly elderly or disabled,” Roth said. “The focus is on the exterior of the house to help spruce it up.”
She said Habitat works with Valspar Paint and Thrivent Builds Repairs. She said the programs provide the materials with the idea that the neighborhood would provide the manpower to improve properties. She said Valspar provides the paint, while Thrivent can provide up to $2,500 per project in materials.
The Washington Area Habitat for Humanity recently merged with Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity, which, hopefully, will bring more services to Washington County.
“What we would like to provide at this time is a call to churches, community groups and service groups who want to sponsor any sort of program,” Roth said.
She said that the groups could sponsor anyone who is a homeowner and has issues providing the means to fix up their home. She said if the group wants to become a part of the Better Block group or do their own project, Habitat could supply materials and other support.
The Better Block Program will start in the spring of 2014, Roth said. She said that if it is successful, the program might become an annual occurrence. She said the program could take a block or two, in which the homeowners meet income requirements, and get a community or service group to take on the work. Habitat would help coordinate the project.
Roth said anyone interested in the program can contact her and she would give them more specifics about who qualifies for the program, as well as an application.
So far, the 500 and 600 blocks of West Jefferson Street will be the first blocks that Better Blocks will address. Roth said there are at least four homeowners already identified for assistance. She said that a date has not been set for the project to begin yet.
“The Washington Task Force and the mayor helped pick the block,” Roth said. “They helped us determine who in that block of homeowners needed help. We were able to do some questioning to figure out who would be qualified for the program.”
Projects will include painting, yard work, and other improvements to the exterior. Roth said, as in all Habitat programs, the homeowner is expected to help with the project. She said that the group is looking into the possibility of using some high school students interested in community service as part of the program. She said the focus is to arrange volunteers to help with the program.
“At this point we are wanting to start small enough that we know that we will be able to do a good job,” Roth said. “We want there to be success. We’d rather start small and be successful than to overpromise and not do a good job.”
She said whether other projects will be done next year will be determined based on the amount of volunteer manpower that will be available.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit Christian organization that focuses on providing adequate, affordable housing. The group is most known for helping build homes for partner families. The group is also looking for Washington families who qualify for a home build in 2014.
People interested in the program can contact Roth at 319-383-3221.

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