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, 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:

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.
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.
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.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Resources to Stabilize Families

If you've done more than a couple dozen homeowner visits for your ABWK program you know that our partner families tend to have multiple needs.

What we have found is that most of a families additional needs outside of home maintenance also impact their housing stability.

These families may need support in the area of financial counseling, mental health, basic needs (food, clothing etc.), health care

Today, we have several partner agencies that we can refer folks to so they can get additional support to remain living in their home.

We are updating our referral handout we give homeowners (and working on putting it on our website) so families have list of trusted "go to" resources available to them.

To get an idea of what we're attempting to put together see preserveourhome.com

We provide a variety of services related to housing such as interior/exterior maintenance and restoration, financial counseling and diy homeowner support.

However, we also want to be a referral resource through partner organizations to more broadly help struggling families stabilize their situations.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Stabilizing Families Through Collaborative Efforts

For the last year and a half, I have been involved with a suburban group called the Community Support Center. We are working together to stabilize families housing situations through a unique partnership of school districts, churches, county/municipalities, business and agency representatives.

We began because many of us were dealing with the same families and duplicating our efforts with very limited resources and results. We wanted to make a bigger impact and felt that pooling our resources and coordinating services would create a bigger impact for those we serve.

The Community Support Center began providing services through a foundation grant and support from Ramsey County and several local churches. We started out coordinating finacial crises support for rental assistance, utilities, moving etc.
However, our desire was to focus more on partnering with families, building long-term relationships and providing an environment to help families move into stable living situations.

Over the last couple months we have been working to find a partner agency that will coordinate the crises support so that the Community Support Center can focus on building relationships and long-term family stability.

So moving forward will be training volunteers to walk alongside families and together figure out permanent solutions out of poverty. Having neighbors partnering with neighbors will be our main focus moving forward.