Welcome - This blog was created to discuss the common questions and topics concerning the start-up and ongoing operations of A Brush with Kindness and Aging in Place

Monday, April 4, 2022

ABWK - An Overview

Habitat for Humanity is known for building homes and creating homeownership opportunities for low-income families, but that’s not all we do. A large part of our work is preserving homeownership by helping low-income households keep their homes in a safe and livable condition. ABWK opens many doors to build relationships beyond what we could do with homebuilding alone. While we build about 55 homes each year, we restore at least twice that many through our A Brush with Kindness (ABWK) program. In 2020 we completed 85 projects. Since 1998, ABWK has rehabbed over 2000 homes and engaged over 10,000 volunteers.

A Brush with Kindness connects volunteers and their resources with opportunities to live out their faith and values through participating in critical health & safety rehab. projects that help families stay in a safe and healthy home. It is a complement program to our homebuyer program allowing us to have a bigger impact in helping people live in a decent home.
·         The program serves any homeowners living in the seven-county metro area.
  • We serve homeowner families living below 60% of the area median income (family of 4 $48,000)
  • We also primarily focus on the most vulnerable in our community such as the elderly, disabled and single parents.
  • Homeowners must go through an application process where we determine need and ability to partner. Ability to partner includes able bodied homeowners working alongside volunteers.
  • We also ask homeowners to participate financially according to their circumstances.
  • We have many referral partners such as the city code enforcement, United Way 211, Area Agency on Aging, Meals on Wheels, Community Action Partnership. We also do a mailing to local social service agencies including a magnet our basic contact information. We also do a media blitz twice a year with a variety of local outlets.
  • Project services include: Exterior and interior work. We partner with homeowners to address city code violations and threats to homeowner insurance cancellation with painting, repairs and yard clean-up (40%). We also address health and safety issues such as accessibility improvements, leaking roofs, unsafe electrical and plumbing hazards (60%)
  • 90% of the work we do is completed by volunteers – about 2,000 each year.
  • The average time to complete a project is 6 days and average value is between $500 - $15,000
  • Some of our work is targeted in neighborhoods. However, in the Twin Cities there is more poverty in the suburbs than our core cities. Therefore, much of our work focuses in a particular suburb or school district
  • Our funding comes from a variety of sources including Federal Home Loan Bank, home sponsorships $500 - $5,000), foundation grants, Thrivent Builds Repairs, CDBG grants and individual donations through our annual campaign.
We see a country where hard-working families can own homes in healthy neighborhoods with access to jobs, transportation, and quality schools. We will help make decent, affordable housing a matter of our collective character - by continuing to build and preserve homes, by supporting strong, stable and self-sufficient families, and by engaging the community in our mission. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Every Generation Needs A Safe, Stable Home

Every generation deserves a safe, stable home to live. That's why Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is started Age Well at Home. 

With the explosion of the Baby Boomers turning 65, the need for helping homeowners adapt their home for successful aging will grow rapidly.

According to research there are 5 characteristics that most beneficial for helping people age in place:
  • Meaningful connections
  • Purpose in life
  • Safe & healthy living environment
  • Access to services & transportation
  • Navigational support to maintain stability

As we look to prepare for future needs we have divided our program options into five categories of a continuum of services: 
  • Homeowner partners (volunteer visitor to check on home situation)
  • Seasonal maintenance/chore services
  • Minor accessibility projects: ramps/railings, level walkways, lighting, grab bars, lever handles (doors & sinks)
  • Major accessibility projects: Create or retrofit bathroom, laundry and bedroom, flooring or widen doorways
  • Create: Attached or detached apartment, homes with Universal Design                      

           As we continue to research and develop our program we have found that the above categories are all significant needs in our community. However, we will need to understand how our expertise in volunteer management, construction skills and working with vulnerable seniors match community needs and resources.

As we continue to understand the aging population we are also finding that Baby Boomers (those 55-70) view aging much differently than previous generations. They will demand a multi-generational and community centered approach to services rather than be isolated in "senior residences." So we will need to learn a different approach in how we serve them in our communities. Home Repair Aging in Place
Aging in Place

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Universal Design Elements for Aging in Place

Most older adults over the age of 50 could benefit from basic home modifications. Unfortunately, most folks do not take proactive steps to make their homes safer until a major incident occurs. Falls are the number 1 reason older adults need to adapt their home or find alternative housing.

Some of the top modification needs in the Twin Cities include: better or extra lighting, additional interior and exterior railings, grab bars in the bathroom, raised toilet seat, hand-held shower head, shower chair, lever handles on doors and fixtures, decluttering major pathways within the home, non-slip floor strips and smart sensors that keep track of where a homeowner regularly travels within their home.

These universal design elements are fairly low-cost and high benefit that will create safety in the major area's where falls occur such as the bathroom, bedroom or kitchen. Also, interior and exterior stairs create many challenges and safety concerns.

For more information on universal design and other home modification strategies visit the AARP website here:

Friday, May 1, 2020

Branding A Brush with Kindness

Call it what it is... A simple act of kindness in partnership with a homeowner family to create stability. Connecting people (homeowners and community - volunteers, agencies and sponsors), restoring homes: A Brush with Kindness.
The program name puts the people we are serving at the center of the story along with those who volunteer.

What HFHI has come to proclaim in its new branding efforts is that our housing programs promote strength, stability and self-reliance for everyone. It explicitly puts people first in our story.

In the past, we have tended to put process (building or preserving homes) and volunteerism front and center. Yet even with its crucial importance of who we are, it allowed those we serve take a secondary (yet still important) role. However, putting those we serve as secondary his has hurt our ability to grow and serve more people.

If you've listened to the recent HFHI presentations about re-branding, it is apparent that we are shifting from building-centered marketing to person-centered marketing. Now that's a simplified statement. Habitat will never and should never get away from the powerful visual story that is created as we see volunteers raise a house wall. Or the powerful picture of seeing a before and after photo of a freshly painted and restored home.

However, focusing our branding on the people we serve will help Habitat to take the next step in growth and more importantly it places the emphasis on where we all know and want it to be - on those we are called to serve.

As we look to tighten up on our home building messaging, I hope we do the same for our programs that help homeowners fix up their homes.
The name A Brush with Kindness sends a clear message to our community that Habitat cares about people living in unstable situations and where we are committed to walk alongside them to restore their homes. Home Repair Aging in Place

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Rock the Block

I have heard from several affiliates about their success with the neighborhood or community blitz called "Rock the Block". It first needs to be said that Rock the Block doesn't mean doing all your work in one geographic block.

From the affiliates that I spoke to it refers to a week or weeks of "blitz" work on several homes with large number of volunteers in a designated geographic area (several blocks, neighborhood or community) that helps to revitalize a designated area.

Garage Fix-up
Just like there variety in size of community there is also variety in the types of activities. At Twin Cities Habitat we called our blitz "Garage-A-Palooza". We focused our work on rehabbing garages, landscaping and a block clean-up. We also provided food and had some kid activities for families on event day. It was a one day blitz but much work was done to make this one day a success.

Event Day Clean-up
We began our work months earlier by forming partnerships with several groups in the area. We also canvassed the block we designated for our work to get neighbor buy-in. We decided to focus on one city block where we already had a home we were building. We found another 6 homeowners who were willing to partner with us to either fix-up their garages, do landscaping, yard clean-up or putting up safety lighting in the alley. Much of the garage fix-up happened during the weeks leading up to the event day with regular crews. The lighting happened after the event day. Home Repair Aging in Place

Event Day Participants