As I wrote about in my previous post, I joined AmeriCorps VISTA to join a nonprofit that fights poverty in the United States. My colleagues work all over the United States with different non-profits like at Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and the Clinch River Valley Initiative in Abingdon or are involved in organizations like Boys and Girls Club. I chose to work with Habitat here in Washington County where I had the opportunity to oversee event projects like Earth Day and help write grants. Every day, I worked on multiple projects and helped around the office.
I got to learn about how many people need affordable alternative housing. In a Housing Virginia Report, 26% of households living in Southwest Virginia live in homes that cost more than 30% of their income. From the perspective of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, those families are housing cost burdened.
Families and individuals who are house burdened and who live paycheck to paycheck, there isn’t a solution to structural damage and weatherization plan that works without help. Minor repairs lead to structural damage that makes the home too dangerous to fix. Ultimately, homes matter because they are where we spend most of our time. We are secure in that space and we want to share that space with others.
In Southwest Virginia alone, we have issues regarding demand for low income rental apartments, lead paint and pipes, and old trailers that are falling in. Most of the people who ask for help are retired. They do not receive any more funds than what they already receive each month and they don’t have anywhere to go. By fixing these shelter needs, we are saying that there are people who look out for you.
What I have witnessed is that there is a community here that is willing and eager to help each other. I don’t think that has ever gone away. We just don’t know what we can do to help our neighbor. I’ve seen volunteers from all walks of life get involved in all aspects of what we do in Washington County.
From signing up to volunteer on build sites to helping at our events, I’ve seen people who have gone out of their way to help others. Even when someone calls to inquire about a Habitat ReStore, we don’t have one right now, I get a sense of the greater community. Every like and share shows how we are all invested in learning about helping some of the most vulnerable in our community.
Over the past year, that has been the biggest blessing. Working with people to come who are happy to help any way they can. It makes me motivated to work alongside them and do what is needed to make sure that Habitat is here to stay. We want to help families and individuals take care of their housing needs. There is still plenty of work that needs to be done, but I am sure that I am leaving everything in good hands.