Homeownership is a part of the American Dream, but for some of our neighbors, dreams can turn into nightmares. We have been asked to shelter in place these past few months to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Most of us find comfort in our homes, as they became our safe haven, but some aren't so lucky.
"Lower-income families who primarily include the elderly, people with disabilities, and working poor families with children, occupy many of the nearly 30 million American homes with structural damages, elevated lead levels, radon or environmental contaminants that place them at risk for injuries and acute or chronic illnesses."
COVID-19 has shed light on the harsh reality homeowners living in substandard housing face. No one in our community should have to be concerned about having access to indoor plumbing or clean water. Still, in Orange County alone, more than 1,700 of our neighbors do not have complete plumbing facilities in their homes. Houses with sunken roofs, houses with mold or asbestos, broken windows, and other dangerous despairs are the conditions these families face every day. Seniors who spent their entire lives working to afford their houses now can't provide the necessary modifications so that they may age peacefully. Aging neighbors need grab-bars installed or wheelchair ramps so they can safely navigate their space.
All homes require routine maintenance and occasional emergency repair. As families grow and create memories in their homes, it can be challenging to keep up with the rising cost of living. They can't afford to hire a professional to remediate the mold, replace the drywall, paint the walls or replace the roof damaged in last year's storm that causes water to leak in when it rains, and despite their best efforts, they cant fix the repairs themselves. A survey by the U.S Federal reserve showed that 40% of Americans struggle to cover a $400 emergency expense. If home repairs aren't handled quickly by a professional, damages can quickly spiral- jeopardizing the health, safety, and long term housing of the family who lives there.
Inside our four walls, we have come to realize we are not stuck at home, we are safe at home. As we spend more time in our houses during these uncertain times, we become increasingly aware of our surroundings. For some of our neighbors, staying home is a constant reminder of the help they need and cannot afford.
"2.6 million low-income homeowners struggle with the health and economic implications of living in unsafe and unstable homes."
On May 1st, Rebuilding Together of Central Florida launched Safe at Home Central Florida, an awareness campaign that will elevate the issues that homeowners living in substandard housing face. Our network of neighbors helping neighbors will help strengthen the Central Florida community and protect the health of our most vulnerable neighbors. Help us to repair their houses so that they, too, can feel safe at home.
Even in times of economic crisis, we each have a deep reserve of generosity, which we can deploy in myriad ways. Join us to spread awareness of housing quality issues in our community by following us on social media and sharing our posts using #SafeAtHomeCFL. Working together we can do extraordinary things. Visit www.rebuildingtogethercfl.org to learn about ways you can help keep Central Florida families safe at home.
Rebuilding Together of Central Florida (RTCFL) envisions a community where every family has a safe and healthy place to call home. Our mission is to repair homes, revitalize communities, and rebuild lives, and we achieve that mission by providing free, critical home repair to our neighbors in need in Orange and Seminole Counties. Since its inception in 2002, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization has provided over 500 Central Florida homeowners with free critical home repair. Invested in the health and safety of our region, RTCFL partners with contractors, companies, volunteers, and community organizations to help seniors age in place, veterans live in dignity and ensure that families can pass their home down for generations to come. This network of neighbors helping neighbors makes our [re]building work possible.