Habitat for Humanity of Seattle – King County helps seniors age in place
Main photo: Lutricia Fields, a resident of Seattle’s Rainier Valley, was able to stay in her home because of Habitat for Humanity’s Home Repair Program. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County.
Regence believes that every partnership we cultivate, every dollar we pledge and every hour we volunteer makes the communities in which we live, work and play healthier. This post is part of a blog series that highlights how Regence is collaborating with community partners to positively impact the quality of life of people and families in our communities.
Habitat for Humanity is known for building affordable housing for families in need. But it also helps seniors stay in their homes by providing much-needed home repairs.
“Our owner-occupied repair program improves health and safety for seniors living on limited incomes,” says Mia Walterson, Habitat’s director of homeowner services. The program gives these seniors the ability to stay in their homes, often by replacing roofs, gutters or siding for long-term safety and comfort. “We’ve seen some pretty extreme cases with roofs caving in, no running water—people in truly dire straits,” Walterson adds.
Because affordable housing plays a vital role in strong, healthy communities, Regence BlueShield is partnering with Habitat for Humanity across Washington (Seattle/King Co., Tacoma/Pierce Co., Skagit and Spokane) to help those in need. The partnership—bolstered through significant volunteer hours, financial support and board leadership from Regence—aligns with Regence’s commitment to addressing social determinants of health like homelessness and food insecurity that have a strong influence on well-being.
From a leaky roof to community activism
Rainier Valley senior resident Lutricia Fields was an active member of her church, a community leader, and worked as a dental assistant in King County for 30 years until a disabling stroke left her in a wheelchair. With limited mobility and resources, the roof of her house began to leak and damaged the interior rooms.
Lutricia learned about Habitat for Humanity’s Home Repair Program, which provided a subcontractor to replace the roof and worked with volunteers to repaint her house’s eaves and trim. “You can’t really understand how it feels to be in your house knowing the roof is leaking and the walls are getting soft, and there is nothing you can do but watch it,” Lutricia says. “This repair is amazing. It has empowered me. I have pride in my house, and now the stress of worrying about what I was going to do is gone and I can focus on getting better and taking care of myself.”
With the repairs completed, Lutricia was not only able to stay in her home but regained her role as a community leader. She developed relationships with Habitat’s staff and volunteers and helped organize a Rock the Block event in her renovated home that provided much-needed community resources. “Lutricia continues to inspire us to this day,” says Amy Farrier, Habitat’s chief development officer. “We’ve been honored to help her flourish in the comfort and safety of her home.”
When Habitat’s Home Repair Program started in 2013, five homes were repaired. In 2018 Habitat completed 31 and it’s aiming to do 35 in 2019. “In the South Seattle, Rainier Valley, Federal Way, White Center and Renton areas there is a big need for these services,” says Farrier.
Tim Lieb, president of Regence BlueShield, is a Habitat for Humanity board member and active volunteer.
“By providing stability for families and independent living for seniors, Habitat for Humanity is enabling lifelong health and well-being in our local communities,” said Tim Lieb, president of Regence BlueShield and a Habitat for Humanity board member. “We’ve proudly served Washington for more than 100 years. Through this partnership with Habitat, we’re playing a small part in helping ensure others can thrive in the Pacific Northwest for decades to come.”