Let’s Roll: Habitat for Humanity’s Neighborhood Preservation

BY LAURA MULROONEY, Neighborhood News Bureau

St. Petersburg- After a debilitating fall last year, Betty Brown, an elderly Midtown resident came home to a house in desperate need of repair. In addition to her recent physical limitations and exuberate utility bills, Betty had no idea how she was going to afford much needed upgrades that would allow her to freely move around her home.

“I was just blessed. I had just come home from the hospital, in 2015, I had fell and broke my knee and needed a replacement. Antwuan came to my house and made me cry,” said Brown, who had her home repaired this past March.

Antwuan Wells

Antwuan Wells

After a visit from Antwuan Wells, the Home Repair Services Supervisor for Habitat for Humanity, Brown’s home went through major renovations to include a new roof, bathroom upgrades ordered by her doctor, and energy efficient upgrades that have reduced her electric and water bills over $200 each.

After a couple of weeks of renovations and no upset to her everyday life, “This is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” said Brown.

Commonly known for new home construction, Habitat for Humanity’s Neighborhood Preservation Partnership (NPP) gives existing homeowners a chance to repair their homes without the need to uproot. The program is exclusive to the Midtown area and modeled after other successful neighborhood preservation partnerships and is intended to complement other initiatives that are currently strengthening economic and resource development in the Midtown area according to Habitat for Humanity Pinellas County.

Wells, referred to as “the man in the trenches,” oversees the entire project from start to finish.  He has been known to go door to door with brochures, help with program enrollment and even coordinate volunteers on the day of repairs.

“Mercy-Midtown has been considered blighted for over thirty years” said Wells. Donations from partnerships, local business and organizations show that the local community can fulfill the Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas mission: “Building hope in the community.”

On Sat., May 14, several of those community partnerships will come together for the “Let’s Roll” painting and landscaping event to help raise awareness for NPP while providing a facelift to 10 homes in the Midtown-Mercy neighborhood.

Valspar Paint, TD Bank, and Habitat for Humanity Pinellas are working together with volunteers from Pinellas Technical College, St. Petersburg College, Job Corps, Deuces BBQ, Deuces Live, New Faith Methodist Church and Annie’s Beauty Supply to sweep through Midtown-Mercy neighborhood with a fresh coat of paint and landscaping.

The “Let’s Roll” event will take place between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. between 9th Avenue South and 26th Avenue, and between 19th Street South and 25th Street South.

What started last July as a pilot program has taken off full speed with Wells at the helm. Since NPP started, three homes have been repaired.

Repairs range from critical services such as roof replacement, plumbing, electrical, structural repairs, and “Aging in Place” modifications, to energy efficient upgrades and exterior painting and landscaping.

“Aging in Place” modifications, defined by Center for Disease Control, enable older adults to live in their own homes and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.

Although a homeowner’s physical contribution to a project, also termed “sweat equity,” continues to fuel the Habitat for Humanity cause, the hours are reduced for current homeowners depending on the extent of the repairs needed and the physical capabilities of each homeowner.

The program requires application approval, after which homeowners will be provided a no interest loan to cover the cost of materials used in the repairs. The loan payments will be tailored to ensure affordability for the homeowner. Labor is free and provided by Habitat staff and community volunteers.

To complete a pre-qualification form online go to www.HabitatPinellas.org, or get a copy of the form by calling or stopping by the Habitat NPP office at 833 22nd St S.

For more details on NPP or to participate in the “Let’s Roll” event, please contact Antwaun Wells at (727) 366-8115, or email at awells@HabitatPinellas.org.

Laura Mulrooney is a reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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