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Gimme Shelter: Yachad's Blog


Working Together: Improving Homes and Health

by Matthew Flyer, Construction Manager

This post was featured on the National Association for State Community Services Programs’s blog during National Healthy Homes Month 2020.

For the last 25 years YACHAD, which means “together” in Hebrew, has played an active role in the Washington, D.C. area by working with families to help them create and maintain healthy homes. Over the past year, Yachad received more than 200 calls for services—more requests than we can accept. The families accepted into our housing remediation programs all lived in their homes for at least a decade, and most for several decades. Their homes are the foundations for their families.

The key has been to pull together resources from volunteers, contractors, grants and local government programs. Rather than relying on individual programs, Yachad combines aspects of many programs targeting them to meet specific outcomes for each home. Historically we have relied on both grants to support contract work and volunteers to fix homes. More recently we have become an implementer of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) administered by the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy & Environment. By combining the energy efficiency benefits of WAP with our other healthy homes and home repair services, we deliver a more comprehensive impact for our clients. In addition to saving money on energy every month, families live in safer, healthier, and more comfortable environments. Not only do these efforts include hands-on work within homes, but also outreach and community relations which are instrumental to identifying needs and implementing solutions.

Yachad also addresses food insecurity in homes that lack working stoves, refrigerators, and functioning kitchen plumbing. It was not unusual for the families we work with to use hot plates and microwaves when appliances were broken. Many are without a fully functioning refrigerator and unable to store food properly which can also lead to serious health problems.

Examples of Yachad’s healthy homes work:

  • Yachad renovated and created new kitchens for homeowners, replacing stoves, refrigerators, microwaves, kitchen cabinets and laminate flooring.
  • Volunteers pulled out old carpeting, replacing it with new laminate or tile flooring.
  • Repaired roofs, addressed extensive plumbing problems to fix water leaks and broken bathroom and kitchen fixtures.
  • Installed new dry wall removing old and moldy material and completed the jobs with coats of paint.

Most recently Yachad has expanded its work to focus on households with serious health-related issues, such as asthma where mold, mildew and pests exacerbate respiratory issues. Data shows that healthy housing and energy efficiency leads to reduced incidents of asthma flare-ups, including asthma-related hospitalizations, emergency room visits and doctor visits. For this reason, Yachad is partnering with Children’s National providing home remediation expertise alongside health care professionals for families receiving asthma treatment.

Collaboration is the future of healthy housing. Yachad is active in the newly formed D.C. Healthy Housing Collaborative, a multi-sector coalition connecting government agencies, healthcare, public health, health insurance providers, housing services, legal services, and more, united in pursuit of policy and systems changes that will lead to healthier housing conditions. Together we are creating healthy housing resources for the community and teaming up to have the deepest impact.

Kitchen renovation before and after thanks to Added Dimensions

American University Hillel students remove old carpet

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