South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity will launch a housing-repair program in the Rochester area this week, hoping to make a dent in substandard housing often owned by or rented to very low-income people.
“We’re trying to help prevent homelessness in south county,” explained Curt Andino, executive director of the nonprofit group best known for its housing projects in Olympia, Tumwater and, soon, Lacey.
That’s not to say homeless people don’t already populate rural areas of the county. Instead of showing up on the streets of Olympia, these are people who often turn to family members and friends in their community for food and shelter.
Many of the rural homeless are driven from their homes when their heating furnaces stop working in the winter and they lack the funds to repair them.
“I’m amazed at how many people don’t have electricity or a working furnace in their homes,” said Kellie McNelly, executive director of the Rochester Organization of Families (ROOF) Community Services.
The width and depth of the substandard-housing program in Rochester, an unincorporated area of approximately 12,000 people, really hit home for McNelly during this year’s turkey basket giveaway, sponsored by ROOF Community Services just before Thanksgiving.
McNelly passed around a roster for folks to sign if they had critical home repairs they couldn’t afford to do, including replacing leaky roofs, broken windows and conked-out furnaces. She signed up 24 families in just 20 minutes, many of them owners of aging mobile homes that are falling apart.
Then she turned the list over to Andino, who had recently driven around the Rochester area and seen the housing crisis firsthand.
“You can drive down any street in Rochester and see the need,” McNelly said. “Low-income families are just not keeping up with their home repairs.”
ROOF Community Services, which operates a food bank and after-school center for kids and offers parenting classes, emergency services and referrals, isn’t equipped to do home repairs. But the organization, which has been a stand-alone group serving the community since 2004, is a willing partner with South Sound Habitat for Humanity, helping link those in need with Habitat’s fledgling south county program.
Andino said his group has pledged $25,000 from sales at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in downtown Olympia. The building-supply center features recycled, vintage and new building and home improvement materials at sharply discounted prices. It diverted 842 tons of reusable materials from the landfill last year, more than double the 2010 total.
Relying on volunteers and donations from retailers and contractors, Andino expects to stretch that $25,000 pledge into up to $100,000 of services. Still, that means only a few of the families on the initial sign-up sheet will see a repair crew at their homes.
People can help South Sound Habitat for Humanity and ROOF Community Services prevent more homelessness in the Rochester area by contributing to the south county fund. For more information, contact Andino at 360-956-3456.
“We will work in the Rochester area as long as the community needs us there,” Andino said.
MOLES ON THE FARM
Last Sunday I chronicled the explosion of mole activity at Horsefeathers Farm. But I neglected to remind readers that it is illegal in this state to use certain kinds of traps to snag moles.
Voters passed Initiative 713 in November 2000, making it a gross misdemeanor to capture an animal with a steel-jawed leghold trap, neck snare or other body-gripping device. It’s still OK to use mouse and rat traps, and there are other exemptions for trapping wildlife that poses a threat to livestock, timber, domestic animals and private property – but not for moles.
A ban on mole-trapping was never the intent of the initiative sponsors. To me and many other landowners plagued by moles, an exemption for mole-trapping still makes sense.
On a more upbeat note: Remember last May, when two 1-year-old trumpeter swans – they are brothers – were introduced to the south end of Hicks Lake near Lacey as part of a long-range experiment to expand the range of North America’s largest native bird?
In recent weeks, the two swans have been spotted in several locations, including the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Chambers Lake and Pattison Lake.
“Suddenly, they’re moving all over the place,” said Martha Jordan of the Washington Swan Working Group, an affiliate of the Trumpeter Swan Society. Jordan reminded lake-area residents and others who see the birds not to feed them.
“We don’t want them to be tame birds,” she said.
Anyone who sees the birds – they are hard to miss with their yellow neck collars marked “M-35” and “M-36” in black letters – is asked to alert Jordan at martha@ trumpeterswansociety.org.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444