By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor
For Penny Peace and her family, the NeighborWorks Weatherization Program is a Christmas present of immeasurable value. The Peace family home on north Ontario Street received a heater and boiler about six months ago and, this past week, workers completed the project by insulating the two-story house to prevent the winter’s cold drafts from spoiling yet another holiday season.
NeighborWorks’ Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) enables residents to use less energy while improving the comfort of their homes. The program, which is available to both homeowners and renters, is offered in the Toledo area by the non-profit agency to residents who earn about 61 to 62 percent of the area’s median income.
The program began in 1983 and about 36,000 homes in the area have benefitted from the home improvements of weatherization including: an increased level of comfort, an increase in the value of the homes, a decrease in the demand on energy supplies and a decrease in the emissions of harmful chemicals created while producing power by reducing the amount of energy generated.
In a house whose residents qualify for the program, an inspection is conducted with a blower door to determine the air infiltration issues that the house is subject to. The home inspection determines the types of improvements necessary such as: health and safety measures; repair or replacement of heating units; insulation of walls, floors and attics; insulation of heating ducts and water tanks; air sealing or ventilation.
Once the inspection is complete and the plan for weatherization improvement is finalized, the process starts. In the case of the Peace family’s residence, for example, the heating equipment was replaced then, last week, insulation in walls, floors and attic was installed by a NeighborWorks’ team – Tim Morehead and Race Bisson. Hector Herrera, production manager and quality control inspector, was also on the site from time to time to oversee the crew’s progress.
The Peace home was critically in need of such a program. The family has lived there for 10 years – mother, father and three daughters. They had been renting for all those years and the landlord had neglected to maintain the condition of the residence. Finally, this year, facing foreclosure, he turned over ownership of the house to the Peace family.
When the family qualified for the program and an inspection was conducted, it was discovered that the house had no insulation at all. It’s a house without a basement, just a crawl space, meaning that not only were the walls and attic allowing the chill to enter (and the heat during the summer), but also the floor. In all, an extremely vulnerable situation – lots of cool air drafts, lots of expense to maintain a comfortable level of warmth in the coldest of months.
While it may be hard to imagine that houses in Toledo could be totally without insulation, according to crew members Morehead and Bisson, they encounter such situations frequently. That crew, and three others, will weatherize about 300 in a typical year and insulating such houses is a routine part of the procedure.
NeighborWorks Toledo was formed in 1977 by residents of the Old West End who were concerned about the future of that neighborhood. The original name of the group was Neighborhood Housing Services of Toledo (NHST). The agency acquired capital to engage in infrastructure and lending improvements.
Over the years the agency expanded to include East Toledo and South Toledo and in 1993 became a member of NeighborWorks America ®.
NeighborWorks America is a national leader in developing affordable housing and community development. According to its mission statement, NeighborWorks Toledo strives to revive and restore neighborhoods for the benefit of residents” by proving services and programs which renew pride, stimulate reinvestment and restore confidence and trust.
In addition to its Weatherization Program, the agency hosts a range of other programs designed to fulfill its mission stimulating neighborhood reinvestment such as: financial coaching, credit coaching, job coaching, homebuyer counseling and pre-purchase education, foreclosure prevention, re-entry counseling and employer sponsored small dollar loans program.
“Our goal is to increase homeownership,” says Bill Farnsel, NeighborWorks Toledo CEO. “Homeownership is the fastest way to build wealth and to create generational wealth.”
NeighborWorks is currently hiring staff for its Weatherization Program.