United Way Day of Action

The United Way of Lamar County is joining forces with the Lamar County Homelessness Coalition’s HomeStay Program to help make repairs to the homes of senior citizens.

When a house becomes badly damaged or rundown, it can be a challenge for people to afford the repairs necessary to keep it safe and livable. That’s when the Homestay Program, offered through the Lamar County Homelessness Coalition, comes in to help.

The Homestay Program provides repairs and renovations to help keep low-income people in their homes, with some exceptions.

Homestay Committee Chair Judy Martin said the program currently does not repair roofs or building foundations, since those repairs are more intensive.

“We do a lot of things, like replacing windows, fixing floors, weatherization and lots of other things,” Martin said. “We do a lot to help these people stay in their homes.”

Last year, the Homestay Program provided repairs to four homes. There are currently 43 houses on the program’s to-do list.

This year, program organizers expect to finish around 20 home repairs, said Jenny Wilson, Homelessness Coalition vice president and United Way executive director.

“That might not sound like a lot, but that’s incredibly impressive, I think,” she said.

How fast the program is able to tackle home repairs is dependent on how many volunteers they can find, Wilson said.

“Once we can get together enough volunteers who have the necessary skills to work on the house, we can start working on a house,” she said.

Wilson said the program hopes to attract more contractors and skilled laborers to lend their time and resources, to help it restore more houses and to complete more demanding repairs, such as the roofing and foundational work it currently can’t do.

“That being said, anyone can volunteer,” Wilson said. “If you want to help, we can find something for you to do.”

The Homestay Program only provides repairs to homes in the city of Paris, but Wilson said it could expand the area of coverage with the assistance of more volunteers.

On Saturday, the Homestay Program will work on eight homes in need of repairs as part of the Lamar County Day of Action, an annual day of community service in which volunteers are called for en masse to lend assistance to a local nonprofit or organization.

In years past, the Day of Action has provided assistance to the New Hope Center of Paris and the Downtown Food Pantry, Homelessness Coalition President Shelly Braziel said.

On the Day of Action, volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. at the United Way office, 2340 Lamar Ave., she said. From there, they will be broken into groups and sent to the homes. How long it will take will vary on the repairs needed, and Braziel said work on some homes could last all day, until around 5 p.m., while work on others could wrap up around noon.

Braziel said it’s not mandatory for volunteers to register in advance for the Day of Action, but it’s preferable to call ahead so organizers have an idea of how many to expect.

To sign up, call the United Way office at 903-784-6642.

To become a volunteer throughout the rest of the year, contact United Way, Habitat for Humanity or attend quarterly homelessness coalition meetings. The next coalition meeting is scheduled for noon Sept. 12 in Lewis Hall at Paris Regional Medical Center.

To apply for a home repair, contact Martin at the Habitat for Humanity office, 170 8th St. SE.

The application looks at income, age, type of repair needed, whether the person has insurance, if they own the home and other factors. Though the program is offered to all low-income families, Wilson said they often prioritize elderly.

If the Day of Action is a success, Wilson said the program might consider doing another to help fix more homes.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize the conditions that some of our community live in, especially the elderly,” Wilson said. “There are people with holes in their floors, holes in the walls, plywood where windows should be and a whole lot of stuff. I think this program is so important.”

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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