Blog - Rebuilding Together
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the third Monday of every January. It is the only holiday we like to recognize as an “on” day rather than an off day. We are encouraged to get up, get out, and practice some kind of service or giving back to the community in order to honor the civil rights leader’s legacy. We, as AmeriCorps members, take this to heart each year and use this day to volunteer in the community in some way shape or form. Because of the unlikely circumstances this year with the pandemic, there aren’t as many opportunities to serve and many are finding it hard to find ways to celebrate MLK Day this year. We compiled a list of resources for you to learn more about the wonderful leader through articles, videos, webinars and volunteer opportunities that are available that day to attend if you are one of those looking to make MLK day a day of service.
“I Have a Dream Speech”:
May his legacy live on forever.
Home has a different meaning to everyone but generally the same connotation to all. It is meant to be a safe place. Rebuilding Together exists not only to repair homes and revitalize communities but the third piece is key – to rebuild lives. We believe that by fixing the exterior we can help to create a happier and healthier interior to turn a house into a home. Let’s see what ‘home’ means to our staff here at RTSEMI…
Lindsey Johnson: “I think there is a big reason we see such a difference in the words ‘house’ and home’. A house is a structure, a foundation, a roof over your head. And don’t get me wrong, everyone who has a house is already more blessed than many others. But a home is an entirely different thing. A home is your safe place. That can mean different things to different people – where your family is, where you were born and raised and made precious memories, where you are raising your kids. Home is the happy, peaceful state in which we live our lives.”
Aliza Durack: “I associate home with people, the people I love most in the world. My family, my friends, and the safety and comfort they provide. I don’t think “home” means a building or place people stay, I think it is a space inside ourselves that we hold for other people. The more space you are able to hold for the people you love, the larger your home is. You don’t need a building to have a home, I think you just need to have people you love, and people who love you. The capacity for love is great, and I think the more I recognize that, the more I realize that your home is just a reflection of the love you give to and receive from others”
Chris Perkins: “Fittingly for this time of year, when I think of home I picture the warmth and comfort associated with Christmas. Probably because “home” becomes more significant when contrasted against a cold, dreary Michigan winter. Home means protection against the elements and protection against whatever else life might throw at you. Home means safety, familiarity, and relaxation.”
Mike Hurst: “Home is a place of unconditional love.”
We hope everyone is staying safe through the rest of this hard year and we look forward to a bright future together in 2021! Happy Holidays!
In my undergraduate career, I found that I had a passion for helping people in sustainable ways. I found that working in the field of nonprofits was something I wanted to explore, and while searching for a job after graduation in 2020 had its challenges, the opportunities offered with an AmeriCorps term at Rebuilding Together Southeast Michigan were unique and I was lucky to be afforded the opportunity to learn from the staff and homeowners in this program.
As this year winds down, I reflect on my term so far and I find myself feeling incredibly grateful to the staff who have cultivated an environment where we are encouraged to learn and try new things. I think one of the most important things you can do when you graduate college is to push yourself to learn new things and find what inspires you the most. I am lucky to work with and encounter people who support and want the best for this organization and it’s staff. Some of the most important lessons I have learned so far are from the homeowners we serve through our program. There is a distinct vulnerability that comes with understanding someone’s financial and emotional hardship, and I have learned that extending empathy to people is a skill in this line of work. It is something you can use to make each homeowner we serve more comfortable and accepting of the help we provide, and that is a very special thing.
As I think of all the conversations in the office, the phone calls to homeowners and strategizing about the organization and it’s goals for the new year, I find myself feeling incredibly grateful for the experiences I have here. I recognize that as I speak with homeowners in Oakland county and am able to offer them an application for free home repairs, that is privilege. That privilege is something I will always be grateful for, and I will continue to extend empathy to those who deserve it most, and myself as I learn more about what inspires me most throughout my term. I find that I am learning more about the community I live in, and appreciate that I can see the world through not only my perspective, but the perspectives of those who need help. That is something I will always carry with me, and I know I will learn more about in the remainder of my term.
As the end of the year approaches and I am getting close to halfway through my AmeriCorps term, I took some time to reflect on what these past 5 months have looked like and how it has made me feel. Naturally, we are all struggling this year as we navigate together what it means to live in a pandemic. There have been many vast changes for all of us, myself included. With this being my second job of the year, it is easy to see the negatives that I have gone through – losing my last job, moving around, trying to find stability. But it is even easier to see the positives, all of which came from being offered the position of the AmeriCorps Wayne County Outreach Coordinator for Rebuilding Together Southeast Michigan.
With every day and week looking completely different than the last, it requires you to be extremely flexible and willing to try new things. One week might be packed full of processing homeowner applications while the next is busy with event coordination and fundraising followed by blogging, social media upkeep and marketing. I would have had no idea there are so many different pieces to running a successful nonprofit and having the chance to work on each of them is so unique. I love the responsibility I feel of being part of a very small team and having such high standards to upkeep with the importance of our mission.
This experience thus far has put everything into a different perspective for me. I have a roof over my head and a home that protects my physical and emotional well being during this hard year – many do not. Rebuilding Together’s mission is “Repairing Homes, Revitalizing Communities, Rebuilding Lives.” I have had the pleasure of witnessing all three of these things happen in front of me. Having a hand in 6 different home repair projects as well as a large-scale park revitalization project with the recruitment of 150 new volunteers all in 5 months during a pandemic…that is powerful. If nothing else, this position has shown me that people have the natural desire to help other people. None of us have a ton of time, money or energy this year as we take on our own battles but somehow, I witness our nonprofit manage to keep running by the grace of every single donor and volunteer that keeps coming back to make sure others are being served.
I am new to Detroit, I’ve lived in 4 other cities and I haven’t experienced a community that is so strongly bonded like it is here. The vulnerability of the homeowners and families I get to work with is so incredible. I hope they know that their willingness to open up to us and ask for help is nothing short of inspiring and the reason I keep going each day. Between the wonderful team I work with daily and the volunteers I work with only once, the homeowners I meet and the ones I only speak with via email, every single one has had a hand in making my experience what it is. There isn’t a job in the world that is quite like it. These skills are translatable to any job you could want to move into after the term is over. Serving with AmeriCorps has taught me so much and I truly believe it is invaluable experience you won’t find anywhere else.
The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone struggling financially, and the pressure to provide gifts, and meals is certainly difficult anytime and especially this year. With so many families struggling, we did some research into organizations that may be able to help your family get through the holidays.
Lighthouse of Oakland County: 248-920-6060, www.lighthouseoakland.org
Services offered: Gifts for Seniors and “Adopt A Family Christmas Program”. Matches families with donors and then helps distributes donor gifts to adopted families in December. Also Thanksgiving meal items, baby, household and personal care items and medical equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers.
Rochester Area Neighborhood House: 248-651-5836, www.ranh.org
Services offered: Holiday Food Baskets, RANH’s Christmas Shopping Days program designates a time for those in need to select gifts for their children. These gifts are donated by the Rochester community specifically for this event.
South Oakland Shelter: 248-546-6566, http://sos1985.org/
Services offered: Provides shelter, meals and other services including holiday help to homeless men, women and children.
Open Door Outreach: 248-360-2930, http://www.opendooroutreachcenter.com
Services offered: Offers programs to assist low and moderate-income families during holidays and other special occasions who live in Waterford, White Lake, West Bloomfield, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake, Commerce, Walled Lake and parts of Wixom.
Troy People Concerned: 248-528-9199, http://www.tpchelps.org/
Services offered: Holiday baskets
Grace Centers of Hope: 248-334-2187, http://www.gracecentersofhope.org/
Services offered: Serving dinner to homeless and needy people at two seating’s, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the center. Women need to enter at the Perry Street entrance; the men’s entrance is on University.
Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas.
Senior alliance holiday meals: https://thesenioralliance.org/
This program provides hot festive meals to homebound seniors age 60 & over OR disabled people
Detroit Area Agency on Aging: https://www.detroitseniorsolution.org/
Same as above program
Holiday Meals on Wheels: 313-446-4444
Lighthouse Ministry: 734-467-7540
Food boxes, holiday baskets, clothing
Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund of Detroit and Wayne County: (586) 775-6139
Offers free holiday gift boxes, which include candy, warm clothing, free toys, books, games and more.
Detroit Lions Club: 313-272-3900
The non-profit gives back to the Wayne County and Oakland Community. Some holiday help, Christmas gifts or trees, parties, and other giveaway events may take place.
Free toys from USMC and charities: 586-205-0851
Children and infants from lower income families may be assisted; offer free gifts, clothing, winter attire, and more.
Many locations offer various seasonal holiday assistance
A message directly from The Mesothelioma Center, “Countless veterans are currently suffering from life-threatening illnesses that are a result of exposure to asbestos, a material that was commonly used in hundreds of military applications, products, and ships because of its resistance to fire. Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma even qualify for special benefits from the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs.”
As a part of the nonprofit community, we feel it is our duty to put out as many resources to people as we can when we find them. We recently came across an educational guide on Mesothelioma by The Mesothelioma Center and we felt it was a good resource to share. With veterans being one of the major populations we serve, this is an issue that directly affects a large part of this population.
Mesothelioma along with other illnesses can come from asbestos. Asbestos is ‘a group of six naturally occurring minerals composed of soft, flexible fibers that are heat-resistant.’ While asbestos is used in many military products, it can also be found inside your home in common household products as well as within the walls in the way the home was built. We have attached a link to a guide that helps explain where asbestos is most commonly found in the home, how to know if you may have it and what to do about it. This is not something to take lightly as it can lead to very serious illness. Please take the time to access these resources and as always reach out with any questions or concerns we may be able to help you with.
Link to locating asbestos in the home:
Link to Mesothelioma support:
First and foremost, Rebuilding Together Southeast Michigan wants to say THANK YOU to all of our veterans who have selflessly served this country. Veterans are a huge portion of the population we seek to serve with home repair services. The least we can do is give back to those who gave so much to this country. We wanted to take a minute to show just how important it is to help get veterans connected to resources because of the increasing need without an increase in actual resources.
In a study conducted for best and worst cities in America for veterans to live, Detroit was ranked one of the worst. Detroit was given a failing score under many categories, ranking one of the worst places to find employment as well as with homelessness being one of the most prevalent issues. We landed in the top 5 cities with the most veterans living in poverty. The quality of veteran facilities was also scored very poorly. With over 600,000 veterans residing in our state, we need to do better.
In an effort to provide veterans with as many tangible resources as possible, we have compiled a list of websites below that provide different types of help for veterans facing financial instability.
We, of course, are here for you as well and would be happy to help answer questions about our own services at any time by emailing email@example.com. Again, we thank you for your service and Happy Veteran’s Day!
Our very first annual Healthy Housing Harvest Party event was a success! As the pandemic pushes all nonprofits to pivot their model of care, Rebuilding Together Southeast Michigan’s staff and board did the same. In addition to doing individual homeowner projects this fall, we wanted to focus on revitalizing communities. We kick-started this effort by holding a park clean up event in Chandler Park of Detroit. With only a month to put the event together, we moved efficiently to partner with Chandler Park Conservancy. The central idea behind the event was to create larger and more engaged volunteer base for our organization, and be present in the community of Detroit during these tough times. While expanding our model of care, we also wanted to keep healthy homes at the forefront of our minds for this community, so we planned to have 150 safe and healthy home kits distributed to the homeowners in the area that same day.
Each kit included a fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide detector, smoke detector, window insulation kit, damprid, ant traps, and a first aid kit. These items are essential to keeping a home safe and healthy. By providing the tools for people to keep their homes safe, without entering their homes ourselves, we were able to fulfill our mission of repairing homes, revitalizing communities, and rebuilding lives.
Being at the event itself provided a new, hopeful perspective for Rebuilding Together Southeast Michigan. Seeing all the volunteers and community members at this event, wearing masks and social distanced throughout the park, and making such a significant impact in this community, reminded us of how much an organization can accomplish if it is willing to be creative in the hardest of times. Sometimes the toughest conditions can lead us to see the best in new things, and that can help to improve prior ideas and offer a new way forward.
You may have seen recently that Rebuilding Together Southeast MI is urgently looking to receive homeowner applications from the neighborhood of Mapleridge in District 4 of Detroit. We wanted to take a minute to explain what that is all about! Michigan State Housing Development Authority has awarded us a $15,000 grant to be put toward 5 low-income family homes in the neighborhood of Mapleridge to be used by the end of the 2020 year. We are working to use these funds to assist with mainly exterior repairs such as gutter/fascia board replacement, porch structure/foundation repair, front step repair/handrail installation, chimney tuck pointing, roof patching/repair, exterior siding replacement, window replacement and door replacement along with a few interior repairs such as water heater and furnace replacements.
Many times, exterior repairs can be overlooked because you spend all of your time inside the home and find things that need fixing on the interior. However, most don’t quite realize the extensive damage that can be done to the home if the exterior is not safe and functioning properly. Not having a solid and porch structure and steps with handrails leads to devastating falls and injuries for elderly homeowners. Without a sealed roof that sheds water properly and functioning gutters, the house can get leaks, flooding and many other issues that lead to weakening of the foundation. Rather than letting these things go unnoticed, we do a full home inspection of every eligible applicant that we plan to work on so that our program manager can properly identify what the greatest needs of the house are to make sure it is as safe to live in as possible.
We are still currently looking for a few more homeowner applications in the Mapleridge neighborhood, zip code 48205. If you have any questions regarding our program or would like to apply, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call in at 313-766-4010. You can find an online and printable application on our website under the “Our Service” tab.
The city of Detroit has had a history of fire safety issues, noted in a study done in 2017 that showed the disproportionate rate Detroit residents were experiencing fires in their residences, 18% compared to the 13% national average at the time.
Since then, the city of Detroit and organizations within the city have taken initiatives in order to help to prevent fires in resident’s homes as well as structural building fires. One of these initiatives were spurred by a grant given to Wayne State University’s College of Urban Studies by State Farm Neighborhood Assist Program. This grant allowed Wayne State to partner with Detroit Fire Prevention and Safety program to install smoke detectors and CO detectors, visit Detroit homes, and educate residents in fire prevention and best safety practices. Beyond this, the city of Detroit now has a “Mobile Fire Safety House” program wherein they educate children on the importance of fire detection, evacuation and safety by exposing them to hands-on methods. Most of these programs are at early childhood facilities, and Head Start programs with a fee associated.
Detroit continues to evolve everyday, to become safer for residents and improve the social safety net for those most at risk. Rebuilding together is continuously thinking of how we can better serve Detroit, and have been selected to be in a grant contest from State Farm. We hope to use the funds from this grant to continue working on fire safety in Detroit by passing out fire safety kits to homeowners. By equipping residents with fire extinguishers, (OTHER MATERIALS HERE), we are helping homeowners to feel safer and more confident in their homes. Many materials associated with fire safety have a high price tag on them, and for low income residents fire prevention and safety may not feel like a priority. These kits intend to bridge that gap and give these necessary materials to homeowners who need it most.
If you haven’t voted for us, please click the link below. You can vote 10x a day until October 3rd and if you screenshot your screen after voting and tag us on social media with your screenshot you will be entered into a raffle for a free Rebuilding Together t-shirt!
Wayne State University-Center for Urban Studies article:
TW: Suicide and mental health
Today, we want to take a moment to recognize that it is suicide awareness month. We understand that mental health is important to all communities and can also contribute to the health and safety of your home. As we focus on veterans as a main population we serve here at Rebuilding Together, we want to raise awareness and provide resources to those who may need them. The mental health of veterans has statistically been a growing problem in this country.
The National Council for Behavioral Health shows some shocking statistics on their website stating that 30 percent of active duty and reserve military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have a mental health condition requiring treatment yet less than 50% of those people get the treatment they need. The Veterans Administration reports that approximately 22 veterans die by suicide every day. While these statistics are concerning, it is important to stay informed. Mental health affects all of our lives whether it’s personally or you know someone who’s struggled with mental health and these resources may be able to help you.
Listed here is a resource to those struggling with thoughts of suicide or who need immediate help. For the National Suicide Prevention Line call 1-800-273-8255. To get to the Veterans Crisis Line dial and Press 1 or text to 838255.
We recognize that a huge contributor to mental health is your surroundings which can include your home. Especially in times like today with COVID when people are spending a lot more time inside their home, there is a greater need to make sure it is a safe and healthy living environment physically and mentally.
If you are not taking steps to take care of both your mental and physical health, it can be detrimental. While staying at home is helping you to stay safe, it is important to understand how to keep your home safe. Rebuilding Together has 7 principles of safe and healthy housing that are a part of every project we do, and could be something for you and your household to keep in mind while you’re spending so much more time at home. Attached you’ll find those seven principles on a printable postcard, you can check in monthly to see if your household is ensuring that these seven principles are being addressed. While taking care of your physical home is important, it is also important to take care of your mental health. These contribute to one another, having a healthy home gives a safe environment to pay attention to mental health, and proper mental health care helps to provide a stable household practices, like taking care of your home. Here are some best practices for mental health that our staff have taken on during these times!
Practicing mindfulness: This can look like a lot of different things, something that you could try is downloading Headspace, an app that helps you to connect with yourself and meditate wherever you may be! This can help to ground you and stop negative thoughts before they become detrimental to your day to day mental health.
Taking time to be outdoors when you can: This could be a short walk around your neighborhood, or going to a park. Taking a break from work or being in the same place for too long can help you to distance yourself from day to day anxieties!
Practice drawing boundaries with yourself and your work/household: Sometimes when you have to stay home for too long, it can feel like everything blends together and the responsibilities never end. Take some time to draw boundaries, set certain times for work, household chores, and taking care of yourself.
Be kind to yourself, you deserve it! It can be challenging to prioritize your mental health in times like these, but it can help you to better take care of your household and home, as well as prevent future problems.
The number of female heads of household has consistently risen over time. Just 10 years ago, the Center for American Progress put out a study noting a new trend in rising female heads of household. Now, that number has increased even more, making single mothers the primary source of income in 41% of homes, earning at least half of the income for the household. The increase in female heads of household has taken a steady increase from 1997 to 2017, when the Center for American progress put out another study. See below, the figure from the Center for American Progress details the increase of bread-winning mothers from 1967 to 2017.
While these numbers have been rising, it is important to note the economic state of these households which affect working women who are trying to support a family. Although the number of bread-winning women has steadily increased in the past 20 years, the work-family model remains systemically unsupported. Paired with that, full time working women still only make 81% of what full time working men make on average. This affects the state of the household and the home, creating a disparity for female heads of household.
This makes it harder for these households to support themselves on a day to day basis, let alone be able to take care of their home properly. Rebuilding Together has affiliates across the United States that work to provide healthy homes for those who need it the most, including female heads of household living in low-income homes.
The Center for American Progress also found that mothers in low income families are more likely than their high-income counterparts to be the breadwinners. This illustrates the point that women as heads of household are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be working the minimum wage jobs, and having to take care of their families on their own. This disparity is socioeconomic and cultural, as our culture perpetuates a standard for women that does not include single working mothers and often overlooks the struggles that are inherent in this role.
Creating an environment that is safe and healthy for every home should be inherent, and easy to attain. And yet, single female head of households have to work twice as hard to provide for their families and often live in residences that need the most work done.
Rebuilding Together works to help the households and homeowners who need it most, and strives to make housing more equitable in the areas we serve. The work we do will always strive to meet the needs of the homeowner and help make their home healthier and safer. In 2019, 71% of the homes surveyed after being served by Rebuilding Together Southeast Michigan were owned by women.
Today, we wanted to make this blog post and recognize National Women’s Day and the work that all women do to take care of themselves, their homes, families and communities. Every time work is done in the area of recognizing socioeconomic inequities for women, it is a reminder that we all can support women in different ways in our respective roles. Supporting organizations that prioritize the health of low-income families and keeping ourselves educated on the struggles of women are all great ways to stay engaged and connect with the communities across the US that are affected by these inequitable practices every day.