Agency Q&A: project:HOMES

United Way works with 40+ local and regional nonprofit agencies to tackle each of our nine Steps to SuccessGet to know these agencies and learn about their partnership with United Way. We invited Lee Householder, Chief Executive Officer at project:HOMES, to tell us about his work.
Tell us about your current role and your professional background.

For the past 10 years, I have served as the Chief Executive Officer of project:HOMES. We are a regional nonprofit that provides nearly every home repair service to low-income homeowners at no cost to them. Our dedicated staff of 34 works nearly every day serving over 2,000 households each year to improve the lives of nearly 5,000 individuals and family members. We have grown to be the largest builder of affordable homes in the region and one of the largest weatherization agencies in the state. Over 1,000 people volunteer with our Renew Crew program every year.

I came to project:HOMES with over 15 years of experience in urban planning and community development with Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority (RRHA) and Henrico County. I have extensive knowledge of many of the neighborhoods project:HOMES serves.

As an adjunct faculty member at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, I teach Urban Planning to future community development professionals. Some of my students intern at project:HOMES and one has gone on to an executive position in local government working with project:HOMES.

What is project:HOMES’ mission?

Our mission is improving lives by improving homes. Since 1992, we have been providing homeowners with critical home repairs and accessibility modifications. We help low-income and elderly continue living comfortably in their homes as they age. We improve accessibility and safety for the disabled. And we help revitalize local neighborhoods by building affordable energy efficient homes. We accomplish this through four core programs.

  • Our Weatherization program improves comfort and reduces energy costs by utilizing innovative energy conservation techniques.
  • Our Rehabilitation program improves home structure and safety through critical home repairs and improvements.
  • Our Renew Crew volunteer program tackles smaller home repair projects and builds wheelchair ramps and other accessibility modifications.
  • Our Revitalization program improves neighborhoods by preserving existing homes and building new ones, and provides safe apartment living for low-income seniors.

In our 25 year history, project:HOMES has completed 24,000 projects for 15,000 households to create and maintain stable, long-lasting affordable housing throughout Central Virginia.

How does project:HOMES support the Connected & Healthy Older Adults component of United Way’s Steps to Success?

Nearly 80% of the people served by our Renew Crew Volunteer Program are over age 60 and most of them have an age-related disability. Older homeowners want to age in-place at home.

When our volunteers add grab bars and install railings for safety, or build wheelchair ramps to make homes accessible, we are providing independence and access to health care and social activities. These modifications not only improve the lives of the recipients, they improve the lives of the entire family.

Our Renew Crew program offers volunteer opportunities that can give seniors an active and meaningful retirement. We have two groups of retired seniors who work two days a week building and installing wheelchair ramps. They are valuable contributors to our success in building over 100 ramps each year. Other senior volunteers specialize in repairing stairs or installing railings and grab bars.

What do you think is the biggest value United Way brings to this area?

project:HOMES has been a United Way agency since our beginning. In 2009, we began partnering to provide wheelchair ramps and repair services to seniors. Many live alone and risk social isolation when illness and disability become problems for them, especially those living in poverty. United Way funding has helped us serve 2,198 households and build 921 wheelchair ramps. United Way is more than a funder to us. United Way is a resource for older adults and people of all ages, providing guidance to alternative sources of support.

What project or initiative has you most excited for the future?

project:HOMES continually looks for ways to better serve the home repair needs in the community. We have a new Immediate Response program now in the pilot phase. Dozens of people call us every day for help. As a result, our programs have waiting lists and our government funded programs have restrictions that may prevent quick resolution. The Immediate Response program can assist homeowners quickly to prevent severe problems from causing a financial hardship and avoid a long wait for help. The program combines our Renew Crew volunteers with work by professional contractors to resolve critical issues such as leaking roofs, plumbing and electrical problems that threaten the health and safety of the family.

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