Making people’s lives better by making homes safe

Making people’s lives better by making homes safe

Elano Areno is one busy lady.  She retired in 2007 and heads a small non-profit called Barangay Community Services of Tacoma.  It’s a Filipino American non-profit whose mission it is to reach out to the elderly and newly arrived immigrants in Pierce County.  Barangay was the winner of the 2012 City of Tacoma Destiny Award for community groups and was also awarded a vacant lot to be converted into a community garden.  All those activities meant the group needed a safe meeting place but in order to open up Areno’s place for seniors and others to meet, the house needed to be safe.  However, her home was “homemade” as Areno calls it.  She feared it wouldn’t meet codes but was on a fixed income and couldn’t afford to make the repairs herself.  So she applied for help with Rebuilding Together South Sound (RTSS).

RTSS volunteers work year round on home modification and emergency repairs but their main program is Rebuilding Day which takes place on the last weekend in April.  In 2011, they built ramps, replaced or repaired roofs, modified or replaced porches and stairs and the list goes on and on for 29 homes and one non-profit facility.  For Areno, this is her second time getting assistance from RTSS.  The first time she applied, they came out to check her roofing.  While they were speaking with her they noticed orange extension cords running across her floor and asked her about it.  “My building is old,” she said, “and so half of my building had no electricity.  I used three orange extension cords from one side to the other.  It was okay because I could watch my TV.”

Her electrical box was old and used old-fashioned round glass fuses.  The fuses sparked when she changed them and scared her.  When she looked into getting her electric system repaired, someone gave her an estimate of $5000.  After her assessment, RTSS told her they were sending out a Bates student.  “They did a good job,” she said.  “I feel better because of safety (concerns).”

Then someone noticed that she slept on a couch.  Her upstairs area was used primarily for storage.  Her stairway was too narrow for her to move furniture up the stairs and into a room.  “They cleaned my upstairs and gave me a bedroom.”  The furniture came from IKEA and so could be assembled upstairs.  “They did a spectacular job.  They were pleasant and fun.”

Areno asked for help again because the February storm knocked down her fence.  Her neighbors behind her made her worried and so she didn’t feel safe being in her own yard.  Her gutters need work and the foundation for her home has some issues.  She’s still worried about her roof because her insurance company has sent her a letter about it.  RTSS has said that the roof isn’t in their budget but they’ll repair the fence, clean her gutters, do some yard maintenance and install a range hood so she can cook inside.

“They brighten my home but they also brighten my life,” she said.  “I feel so blessed and appreciate what they’ve done.”