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.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stretching Broader to Stabilize ABWK Families

Over the years we have found that our ABWK families have other pressing needs beyond fixing their homes that contribute to unstable housing situations. If our purpose is to stabilize homeowners and help them remain in their homes, then we also need to be a part of the bigger picture to help families accomplish this end.

Let me be clear, I'm not suggesting we go outside our mission of creating and preserving affordable housing. However, I am proposing that our mission goes beyond the building and rebuilding we do onsite!

One of the things we have seen when we serve families with home restoration (ABWK) services is that most families could use other assistance in helping them remain living in their home. At Twin Cities Habitat, we are beginning to walk alongside families to help them get connected to essential supportive resources for the home.

This basically means we are available to help families navigate essential resources that can help homeowners remain in a stable home. The following is a link to resources in our area we feel confident can assist struggling homeowners: http://www.tchabitat.org/resources

Here is also a link to a printed copy of helpful resources: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B26IjoD-X4sSVF9TUTE4U3lvaTA/view?usp=sharing

Saturday, February 21, 2015

ABWK - Going Beyond The Start-up Phase

A brush with kindness

The first few years of our ABWK program created a flurry of activity. Most of our family partners were seniors that owned their homes and were for the most part wonderful program partcipants. During those early years we received a lot of publicity and created many longlasting agency partners that we rely on to this day.

However, as our program became more established and built a reputation in the community for helping people restore their homes and preserve homeownership, we realized that we needed to develop more in depth policies, procedures and parameters for A Brush with Kindness.

There is a point in the program where current and future resources need to be assessed in depth and a plan developed based on strategic goals and growth opportunities. Obviously, the need in most communities continues to grow with no end in site. However, finding the necessary resources - both cash and inkind will determine to what extent your program can meet those needs.

We have chosen to grow in the area's where we can have the biggest impact - health & safety projects. These type of projects benefit homeowners the greatest to allow them to continue to living in their home. However, we balance those projects with enough volunteer friendly projects that meet demand and helps grow the program.

Most programs should be able to jump from serving 12-24 families a year (start-up phase) to serving 25-50 families a year within 5 years of start-up. Depending if your program runs on staff or volunteers, your budget should range from a start-up of $25,000 to $100,000 as you move into more and bigger projects. Obviously, staff and size of projects will make your budget vary greatly. However, it does create a general picture of where many programs start and grow into during there second phase of growth.

For much more specifics on ABWK growth and strategies please contact me at plund@abwk.net.

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