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Superior officials, nonprofits launch home repair effort

Call it an extreme version of the local Paint the Town program or a simple, less-glamorous version of the TV show "Extreme Makeover," but nonprofit organizations working with Superior's city building inspection division are hoping to create a coa...

Call it an extreme version of the local Paint the Town program or a simple, less-glamorous version of the TV show "Extreme Makeover," but nonprofit organizations working with Superior's city building inspection division are hoping to create a coalition to help people without the means to repair their homes.

The coalition would consist of volunteers and resources to fix homes under repair orders by the building inspection department for substandard conditions.

The city is seeing a growing number of cases of people living in substandard conditions who can't afford to fix their homes, said Chief Building Inspector Dan Curran. He said they usually involve people who won't seek help or don't meet the requirements of a shrinking number of programs that could help.

Among the cases Tammy Thibert, the city's code compliance officer, has dealt with in the last year is a single mother of five forced to make a choice between feeding her children and fixing holes in the exterior after a complaint was filed with the city.

Thibert said she has an obligation to enforce city codes, but at the same time she doesn't want to force people out of their homes or issue citations when that will only make the problem worse.

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"I want to work with them," Thibert said.

That prompted building inspection officials to contact several nonprofit organizations that deal with housing issues in search of solutions to assist those who can't afford to make repairs.

Members of the nonprofit organizations have been brainstorming ideas that could help people like the single mother, who eventually got help from a church to make necessary repairs.

"We'll need to raise money," said Sandy Al Qudah of Catholic Charities Housing Counseling Program.

She also suggested getting service organizations involved when the situation matches their mission. And the group is hoping to build a pool of volunteers who could do the work.

The city and, later, a private agency ran a similar program for several years that painted about 10 homes annually in a volunteer spruce-up effort. Paint the Town, however, was not without pitfalls, said Kim Grawelski of the city's community development office.

Participants were discovered to own boats and antique cars when they availed themselves of the service. One man sat in his yard drinking and directing volunteers as they painted his home.

But the program also prompted many elderly women to bake and cook for volunteers to show appreciation for their effort.

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Anyone with ideas can e-mail Telegram Editor Shelley Nelson at snelson@superiortelegram.com to have those ideas forwarded to members of the planning group.

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