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, 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.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Serving Families Deeper

We build and rehab homes through our homebuilding program. We also do home maintenance and restoration through A Brush with Kindness.

When I created A Brush with Kindness it was because the local paint programs (one that I lead) were inadequate to stem the tide of home and neighborhood deterioration.

These beautification programs focused on the exterior of the home without addressing common health and safety issue's such as roofing, window failure, interior wall, ceiling and flooring issue's as well as electrical, heating/cooling and plumbing issue's.

Paint is a beautiful finishing touch and home preserver. However, without replacing parts of the rotted exterior envelop, failing interior parts, we are just putting on a temporary facade that is not very helpful to the homeowner or their long-term viability.
Habitat for Humanity
We do a lot of painting through ABWK, which is why we first focus on fixing both exterior and interior health and safety issue's that will assist families remain living in their home.

Did we begin our program replacing roofs or changing out electrical systems? No, we grew into helping homeowners in deeper ways. However, early on we made homeowners aware of their situation and assisted in troubleshooting solutions, sometimes serving them in multiple years to get the necessary work completed.

Exterior paint and minor restoration can help preserve a home and spruce up a neighborhood. Yet, to have a major impact on families and communities it is necessary to expand your program to a deeper scope of work.

Also, I know affiliates are promoting multiple "housing solutions" to their communities. However, what we have found is that marketing multiple maintenance programs only confuses your constituents. Also, things like weatherization may be helpful to homeowners, but it is better to use your precious budget dollars for more significant health and safety issue's.

Even if your affiliate prefers promoting several housing solutions you may want to consider having them people focused like homebuyer and homeowner services rather than housing products or solutions. Just a thought.