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Gimme Shelter: Yachad's Blog

Yachad Brings Communities Together to Preserve Affordable Homes

Yachad was recently featured in our partner LISC’s newsletter. Local Initiatives Support Corp is a nat’l nonprofit investing $50 million east of the Anacostia River to support affordable housing and more.

Yachad, which means “together” in Hebrew, is a nonprofit whose mission is to bring communities together by preserving and repairing homes owned by lower income, elderly and disabled homeowners. Recognizing that the most fragile families have the greatest need for stabilized homes, but often don’t have the disposable income to spend on repairs, Yachad addresses D.C.’s affordable housing crisis by mobilizing people and resources.

In 2017, LISC provided a $30,000 capacity building grant to support Yachad in their efforts to expand services to neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, including communities within the boundaries of our Elevating Equity initiative.

Jennifer Cobb, a homeowner living in DC’s Anacostia neighborhood, first learned about Yachad from a neighbor and later received an application from her grandson’s elementary school.  Jennifer was hoping that Yachad could help fix her faulty toilet and address the draft issues she was having in her home. She was pleasantly surprised that Yachad did so much more.

“It was the simplest application ever. They asked for information about you and the issues that you are having with your home,” Jennifer stated. “I had no idea that they would fix numerous items that I hadn’t even considered,” Jennifer added.

These items included fixing the air conditioner, repairing the roof, eliminating rodent problem, installing a security door and new doorbell, adding outside lights, painting awnings, fixing the washing machine, installing a new dryer, painting her grandson’s bedroom, cleaning gutters, discarding clutter in the basement, and completely renovating the kitchen – with new  cabinets,  new counter tops, new hardwood floors, new oven, and a new refrigerator.

Yachad partners with homeowners, houses of worship, nonprofits, and other community stakeholders, mobilizing skilled and unskilled volunteers to make repairs to homes.  “The core of our work is the Single Family Home Repair program. Over the course of many months, a home’s plumbing, electrical, drywall and other infrastructure repairs are made,” stated Audrey Lyon, Yachad’s Executive Director.  Very few organizations are doing this kind of work.

“Our Single Family Home Repair program primarily targets the larger, multi-generational households, especially families with children, to benefit as many people as possible,”  Audrey shared. “It is a badge of honor to be partnered with LISC.  LISC’s support allows us to go into people’s homes much more quickly,” she added.

“In my line of work, our clientele are typically super wealthy with seemingly unlimited money to spend on repairs and renovations to their homes. I believe that people of limited means should also have access to safe, clean, and affordable homes,” stated Alan Kanner, a Principal at Added Dimensions Inc. and a contractor with Yachad.

Ms. Cobb in her new kitchen.

Alan, a Yachad board member and a general contractor by trade, renovated Jennifer Cobb’s kitchen, even though the original scope of work did not include any work in the kitchen.  “I walked in her kitchen and immediately knew that work needed to be done in there as well,” Alan shared.  “Every homeowner should have a functional kitchen,” he added.

Alan used his connections to buy new kitchen cabinets and to get granite counter tops, backsplash, and tile donated.  He even enlisted employees from his company to do the actual renovations. The finished product is a beautiful kitchen that in the words of Jennifer, “doesn’t look like it belongs in my house.”  Alan epitomizes what Yachad is all about – bringing people, both skilled and unskilled volunteers, together to preserve affordable homes and revitalize neighborhoods.

Adat Shalom volunteer tackling repairs at the Cobb home.

Alan’s initial interest in affordable housing stemmed from his prior work at Manna, Inc., one of LISC’s key partners in affordable housing preservation. His volunteerism on Yachad’s board felt like a logical place to continue his passion of helping people stay in their homes, especially as more and more Washingtonians are being priced out of their neighborhoods.

Jennifer’s home has been in her family for over 45 years.  She and several of her neighbors got married in her home, so it is not only a special place for Jennifer but also for many other families. As a child, Jennifer’s parents were able to maintain the upkeep of their home, but over the years, Jennifer’s home required several repairs that were out of her budget.  Lack of repairs caused a rodent problem that was a source of embarrassment for Jennifer.

“I didn’t want to use my bathroom.  I was afraid that I would see a mouse.  I felt so relieved when Yachad took care of the leak and replaced my toilet.  Not only does the new toilet have an ‘industrial’ type of flush, but the repairs done eliminated the source of the rodents,” Jennifer shared.  “The mail lady stopped by to talk to me and mentioned the need to use the bathroom.  It felt so good to be able to tell her to use mine,” she added.

By working to preserve properties, Yachad helps families avoid displacement from their homes  and neighborhoods and builds wealth through greater home equity. Yachad accepts applications on a year round basis; however, it can make repairs on a maximum of 40 homes given that each house’s work is pretty extensive.  In 2017, Yachad repaired seven homes within LISC’s Elevating Equity Impact Area, helping to preserve affordable homes in the neighborhoods surrounding the future 11th Street Bridge Park. With just six staff, Yachad relies on the support of its numerous volunteers and subcontractors.

Yachad’s work is life-changing.  Accessibility improvements allow senior homeowners to age in place; renovations reduce ongoing maintenance or utility costs; and homes become more stable and safer for the long-term.  “Yachad made my house a home,” Jennifer concluded.

Photo credit: Sue Dorfman

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