Home Sweet Home: The Repair Corps Helps America's Vets

800px-us_navy_111026-n-nt881-027_san_antonio_area_sailors_volunteer_to_help_build_a_house_for_habitat_for_humanityHabitat for Humanity and Home Depot Foundation join forces to help America's veterans by making their homes safer, healthier and more comfortable

The United States Veterans Administration has two grant programs meant to assist veterans with disabilities with home repair and renovation. The Specially Adapted Housing Grant (SAH) provides qualifying combat-injured veterans up to $50,000 to renovate a home that is fully accessible. And the Home Improvements and Structural Assistance program help disabled veterans to remain in their homes.

PERFECT MATCH: HABITAT FOR HUMANITY AND HOME DEPOT

But as with most social funding, the government can't do it alone. And thanks to a joint venture between the non-profit Habitat for Humanity and the philanthropic arm of Home Depot, veterans in need to critical home repair or renovation have more options.

In July 2011, Habitat for Humanity launched the Repair Corps, a program that performs home repairs and improvements for American veterans. Underwritten by a Home Depot Foundation grant of $2.7 million, the program draws on the local and regional expertise of U.S. Habitat affiliates to identify eligible veterans in need of various home repairs such as electrical work, caulking, plumbing, HVAC, roofing, weather stripping and insulation. Also central to the program are the needs of disabled veterans who need wheelchair ramps, wider doorways and bathroom remodeling.

To cover the repair costs, families in the program agree to repay a no-profit, open-ended, zero-interest loan with payments go into a revolving fund to help additional families. As an added incentive to help veterans start saving once their applications are approve, up-front payments result in 50 percent off the project cost.

The Home Depot Foundation has granted up to $10,000 for every project of the Repair Corps, the pilot phase of which ended on May 31, 2012. Thirty Habitat for Humanity affiliates performed critical repairs for over 80 veterans.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE, ONE MILITARY FAMILY AT A TIME

"We had been saving up for years for a new roof, furnace and air conditioner, but due to an unstable economy and rising mortgage payments, we needed some help," said 57-year-old veteran Cliff Easley, a resident of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who served in the Army from 1977 to 1988. "We are so thankful for the Repair Corps partnership for providing us energy efficient units that are saving us money and keeping us safe and cool during this extremely hot summer."

"The success of the pilot program demonstrates the vast need for affordable and quality home repairs for veterans and their families," said Kelly Caffarelli, president of The Home Depot Foundation. "Habitat for Humanity has its finger on the pulse of the needs of homeowners in communities nationwide, and we are proud that through the Repair Corps program, we are able to identify and help veterans whose homes are in critical need of repair." She said that a renovation that costs $10,000 can be the difference between making a home livable and putting a low-income family out on the street.

STRENGTHENING THE COMMITMENT TO HELP

While the Repair Corps pilot phase has ended, more veterans will be soon be able to access the benefits of the program. Earlier this month, Habitat for Humanity and the Home Depot Foundation announced that the Repair Corps would be undergoing a national expansion.

"With $2.7 million in funding from The Home Depot Foundation, volunteer assistance from Team Depot, The Home Depot's associate-led volunteer force, the expanded Repair Corps Program will provide Habitat affiliates across the country with the resources to repair the homes of more than 180 veterans and their families," according to a press release.

The expansion includes the participation of 84 Habitat affiliates across 30 states, each receiving grants of up to $15,000 to fund home repair and renovation projects in such veteran-heavy cities as San Diego, Charlotte, Norfolk and Nashville.

"The Repair Corps program is another solid demonstration of The Home Depot Foundation’s commitment to our mission and to families across the U.S. who urgently need decent homes," said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. "We are grateful for the Foundation’s continued support and are excited about the ways in which these efforts will further help families and strengthen communities across the country."

For veterans, there's nothing quite like the feeling of coming home. Thanks to programs like the Repair Corps, some of those homes are getting some much-deserved TLC.

To participate in the program or request a grant, email USSupportCenter@habitat.org or visit www.habitat.org.

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NOTES

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. Specially Adapted Housing Program. January 1, 2001. Accessed July 29, 2012.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA). May 14, 2012. Accessed July 29, 2012
Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity. A Brush with Kindness. December 16, 2011. Accessed July 29, 2012.
Ibid.
Home Depot Foundation. Habitat for Humanity International and The Home Depot Foundation Announce National Expansion of Repair Corps Program. July 19, 2012. Accessed July 29, 2012.
Ibid.
Leo Shane III. Homeless assistance shifts from new construction to major renovations. July 26, 2012. Accessed July 29, 2012.
Ibid., 5.
Ibid.

image: San Antonio area sailors volunteer to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Carlson, Wikimedia Commons)

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