WELCOME - This blog was created to address and discuss the common questions and topics concerning the start-up and ongoing operations of A Brush with Kindness.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why A Brush with Kindness?

 Connecting People
















A Brush with Kindness has become an integral part of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. ABWK began as an idea to help struggling low-income families repair and restore their home and create stable homeownership in the Minneapolis/St.Paul metro area. It's primary focus began in our core urban areas where aging homes were in abundance and neighborhoods were struggling to maintain housing and keep families from taking flight.

Restoring Homes














The U.S. loses ten's of thousands of affordable homes each year to demolition and most affiliates are not able to increase their home production to a significant extent to replace these homes. So helping to not only create but also preserve homeownership makes sense for communities throughout the country and much of the world.

Many low-income homeowners in the Twin Cities live in challenging circumstances that create overwhelming and paralyzing issues. They often are forced to choose paying for food, medication, or basic utilities and put needed home repairs off until they can no longer be ignored.

Yet years of deferred maintenance often leads to unsafe and unhealthy living conditions. A home left in disrepair may result in city code violations and homeowner insurance cancellation. Many of the homeowners we partner with have worked years to maintain their homes and now find themselves in an awkward and sometimes embarrassing position of asking for help. 

As an affordable housing provider, Twin Cities Habitat understands the importance of homeownership for economic, physical, and psychological well-being. A Brush with Kindness helps ensure families are able to live in safe, healthy homes. The program not only helps keep homeowners in their homes, but also helps to revitalize neighborhoods and saves communities thousands of dollars in safety net assistance for homelessness, nursing and hospital care.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Creating Impactful Family Stories

We have found that the best way to get community support for ABWK is to share our family stories of housing crises to housing stability.

We try to bring out the families story through an interview process. We do the interview in person, over the phone or through written/email communication

We try to understand what life was like before the housing crises, during the housing crises and the improvements felt after Habitat's/ABWK's work. We want to know what Habitat’s impact had to help create housing/family stability.

The following questions are some interview questions we use as a guidline to help us gather story information:

  • How did you come to live in your home?  How long have you lived in your home?
  • Please tell us some interesting things about you and your family: what do you like to do together, what do your children like best about school, what are your favorite family traditions, etc?
  • How did you learn about Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity or A Brush with Kindness?
  •  How did you feel when you found out you were chosen to receive assistance maintaining your home?
  • What was your experience like working alongside volunteers and staff?
  • What are the biggest hurdles you are currently facing and has A Brush with Kindness helped alleviate or minimize any of these issues? How did ABWK's work help in overcoming your families housing issue's and what is the impact for you today and for the future?
  • What are your future plans, goals or dreams (family, education, work-related, recreation)?    

We also try to weave into the family story how Habitat brings together a variety of partners and resources (naming partners where appropriate) to be able to assist families.   



The best way to sustain and grow A Brush with Kindness and be able to serve more families is by connecting our constituents with the impact of our work on families.

                        

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Partner Available to Support ABWK Families

The Community Support Center (CSC) is a network of partners representing every facet of our community, including - faith communities, schools, social services, county, city, business and funding agencies - all working together to support those struggling with housing instability and hardship in our neighborhoods.

Our goal is to prevent homelessness by connecting at-risk neighbors to existing resources and providing longer-term support through compassionate volunteers thereby building their capacity to deal with future challenges with greater independent success.
Habitat for Humanity
The CSC is a new concept where churches play a vital support role to families. Churches through the CSC, also provide schools, agencies and county systems overwhelmed by families in need are not set up for giving long-term nurturing support necessary for long-term stability.

The CSC is about a different way of helping (How We Do Our Work)… The CSC partners are committed to helping our at-risk neighbors in the Mounds View School District stop the cycle of living emergency-to-emergency.

Because our goal is different, our methods are different, too! When working with our at-risk neighbors, CSC staff and volunteers strive to:
1. Listen - taking necessary time to register everything our neighbor wants to share about their situation.
2. Refer - to existing resource partners for critical immediate needs, where appropriate. Some of our reference partners include: churches, The Salvation Army, Legal Aid, and Ramsey County Human Services.
3. Identify - practical, achievable, short-term opportunities for neighbors to improve their situations.
4. Partner - with willing CSC participants to identify long-term, sustainable improvement benchmarks paired with the provision of continued material support until greater self-sustainability (and, an end to the cycle of emergencies) is achieved.

Collaborating with groups like the CSC helps to serve our ABWK families in a broader, deeper manner tha creates more effective long-term housing stability.

For more information about the Community Support Center or to start a center in your community contact Pat Lund at plund@abwk.net

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New ABWK Program Serves 1st Family

Habitat for Humanity of St. Croix Valley, Wisconsin is our affiliate neighbor to the east just across the Minnesota border.

They just completed their first A Brsuh with Kindness project in patnership with a family in Hudson, Wisconsin.

They prepped and painted the exterior of the home with the help of volunteers from the Home Depot.

Dennis Schmidt, Project Specialist for the affiliate said it was a good experience, things went well and they learned a lot. He also said that the need in their area is great and they are looking to serving more families in the future.

See the before and after photo's below:

Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Helping More Families with Online Tools

We work with many partner agencies that refer homeowners to our program. Several of these agencies help families fill out applications in their office or at a clients home. We have developed an online application to help agencies assist homeowners expedite filling out and sending in their applications.
Habitat for Humanity
It can take 3-6 months to process an application from the time we receive an application to completion of a project. Many of our homeowners are in dire need so we work hard at narrowing the process time as much as possible.

One of the ways we have helped to speed up the application process was to change our data base. We now use Salesforce which is a free (for non-profits) online data base. Our online data base automatically imports data from our online homeowner application which helps to expedite the application process.

We also have an online home assessment tool which also syncs its data with our Salesforce data base, again significantly speeds up our project turnaround time.
More and more of our homeowner families are using online banking, bill pay and filling out various applications for service online, we felt it was a natural progression to move our application to a digital online format. Even though we are expecting only 25% of families will use this option, we believe that most agencies who assist homeowners with filling out their application will use our online tool.

Our online application and home assessment tool helps us serve more families in a timely manner. Click the link to view our online application.

http://tchabitat.force.com/abwkonlineapp