Washington County, Virginia Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1998. We started out as an informal association of able volunteers providing repair and home construction assistance. Habitat helped to coordinate our efforts in a larger organization. Throughout the 2000’s this group of volunteers continued working, building about one home per year. In 2010 WCHFH’s board of directors decided to hire staff for the first time, and in 2011 Pete Stigers was hired as the Operations Director.
Over the past five years Pete has gradually built a committed staff that now includes a Construction Manager, part-time secretary, and a VISTA volunteer who focuses on fundraising. This has led to growth in outreach to the community and housing production. We have completed five houses since 2011 with two currently under construction. Our most recent expansion was to start a Critical Home Repair program. Pete started the program late 2014. While this has been a challenge to maintain we have completed 20 repairs for low-income families in the last two years, and the program is now paying for itself.
WCHFH is a small organization meeting clearly identified needs in the community. The organization has made significant progress in building its internal core of staff and board members with the experience to move the organization forward. Additional investments in planning, structure, skill development and external relations will ensure a strong foundation positioned to support the organization in the coming years.
Who founded Habitat for Humanity?
Millard and Linda Fuller founded Habitat in 1976 on Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia. They came up with the idea of “partnership housing” which takes volunteers and Habitat as an organization working together building simple and decent houses. To this day, Habitat has helped 6.8 million people find strength, stability, and independence through safe and affordable shelter.
Why Mobile Homes in Washington County are causing a negative impact.
A population aging in place without the resources to do so increases societal and health issues. Too many residents living in Washington County, VA, (16%, twice the national average) reside in mobile homes. Mobile homes depreciate quickly instead of gaining value, causing an adverse effect on the community. They deteriorate physically with few solutions for long-term maintenance which leads to generational housing problems as parents die and leave a dilapidated, unlivable home for their children to deal with. Roofs are often galvanized metal, which rusts over time and cannot be easily repaired since the structures of the roofs are not designed to support the weight of workers.
Many families are trapped in trailer or mobile homes that are falling apart around them – alternative housing either doesn’t exist or is unaffordable, and fixed incomes prevent proper upkeep. When tenants request repairs they may, according to the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, take days or even longer to complete. There are several maintenance issues with mobile homes: 1) Damaged “belly wrap”, the plastic sheet covering the bottom of the home which acts as a moisture-barrier and insect/rodent barrier gets damaged during plumbing or electrical repairs and does not get repaired correctly allows for mold, insect infestation and/or rodent intrusion, 2) Additional electrical outlets or modifications may overload the manufacturers panel box causing electrical shorts and damaging household components, 3) In mobile homes built before 1995 polybutylene piping was installed which may cause leaks causing black mold; and 4) Missing skirting can cause water build-up and lead to decay and mold issues. Mold, insect damage, antique wiring, deteriorating roofs, lack of proper HVAC and insulation – leads to ridiculous heating and cooling bills (often $500/month or more in the winter).