Right from the start I’ll come clean with the fact that I really love the model that Rebuilding Together – Pittsburgh has developed to impact individuals, homes, and entire communities. They have been at work here in Pittsburgh for 23 years and during that time they have completed over 2,300 projects focused on low-income seniors, veterans, and those with disabilities. But the work that Rebuilding Together accomplished for these individuals has also provided a huge boost for neighboring homes, and often the surrounding neighborhood as a whole.
What do they do?
Rebuilding Together works from a simple vision. They want to see everyone in a safe and healthy home. To realize this vision, the primary focus of the organization has always been home repair. This often means tackling some of the most basic aspects of a home: plumbing, electrical, roof and floor repairs are frequently needed in order to make a home safe. But, because a large portion of the population they served is aging or has difficulty getting around, this can also mean retrofitting a home with safety features like grab bars and wheelchair ramps. Rebuilding Together will also weatherize a home so that utility costs become more manageable for the owner.
A second, innovative aspect of what Rebuilding Together – Pittsburgh is doing can be found in their Jobs First initiative that started a few years ago. With this program, members of the neighborhood where the project is being conducted are brought on as short-term employees. These employees are given stable work for about eight months while they are being trained to be team leaders. In completing the program, they develop the skills and work history that is necessary for transitioning over to full-time employment in a service trade.
Why do they do it?
Helping to make a single home safe and healthy is an admirable goal, but Rebuilding Together – Pittsburgh does so much more. It’s always going to be a positive to undertake a project that will raise the value of a home. As a real estate agent, I call tell you that there are a number of excellent ways to do this. And, yes, it will have a positive impact (if ever so slightly) on the value of your neighbor’s homes as well. But when two, or ten, or even twenty homes, all within blocks of each other have improvements made that raise their value, this will really elevate the entire neighborhood. Rebuilding Together – Pittsburgh has discovered that they can exponentially increase their impact by focusing on particular communities, neighborhoods, and streets. This is how even the homeowners who are not working directly with Rebuilding Together- Pittsburgh are benefiting from the good work that is being done and an example of what can be accomplished by focusing on what the organization calls “comprehensive impact neighborhoods”. Currently, Rebuilding Together – Pittsburgh has given seven local neighborhoods this designation as they look to focus their work on places where they can have the greatest overall impact.
When long-time residents aren’t able to stay in their homes, the neighborhood loses a neighbor. If this happens repeatedly, the neighborhood begins to lose its history, even its identity. Rebuilding Together wants to increase the ability of residents to age in place: to keep the homes where their children grew up and where so many life events took place. There is dignity in this; there is preservation of community; there is kindness.
How you can help?
Rebuilding Together – Pittsburgh is the perfect organization for those of you who don’t mind getting your hands a bit dirty. There is something extremely satisfying about working with your hands to make something safer and better. While finding new “capacity volunteers” with some construction skills is an important goal right now for Rebuilding Together, I have been assured that everyone can do something. Please don’t let your perceived lack of abilities hold you back from getting involved with this group. They will find you a role, and probably teach you some useful skills in the process.
Your financial and in-kind donations will also be put to very good use here. If you need specific ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out (provide link). Things like handrails, windows and appliances are almost always necessary for making a home more livable. Hardware store gifts cards will be put to good use. This is an organization that prides itself on the ways it has creatively collaborated with a variety partners. Offer your suggestion, there will likely be a way to use it.