My life would not have been the same without my grandmother. For 30 years she worked at the Bedford, Massachusetts, Veterans Administration as a Nurse’s Aide in the psychiatric ward. She lived in the same house for 70 years. When my grandmother retired, she had to choose between a government pension and social security. Since she was shy three quarters from getting full social security benefits, she chose the government pension. During that time you had a choice; you didn’t get both.
One day my brother called to tell me that she had been scammed by a roofing and siding company. The contractors had her withdraw money from her limited savings to pay for shoddy work they never finished. My brother and sisters each chipped in to pay for the repairs to complete her home. We’ve all heard similar stories. Unfortunately, the world has not changed. Bad people continue to take advantage of our most vulnerable.
Like my grandmother, let me introduce you to David Shaw, an elderly gentlemen that I spoke to recently. During a duck hunting trip when he was 15 years old, he was shot in the arm and severely injured. This limited his ability to maintain a productive work life. His monthly income is around $750. He lives in a trailer and pays $520 a month for his space rent. In 2008 during an ice storm, a tree went through his roof and damaged his roof and chimney. He and his brother tried to fix it as best they could. He used a wood stove with a cracked glass door for heat. He noticed that every time he put wood in the stove, his coughing became worse, and he could not breathe. That’s because David has asthma that he was trying to control through the use of a child’s rescue inhaler.
When Michael Johnson, a Weatherization Technician at Pierce County Human Services, first met David Shaw, he was gasping for breath just sitting and talking. His house and his respiratory condition were both in very poor condition. The initial audit of his home found holes in the interior ceiling, a roof that was actively leaking, and a furnace that was not working at all. The home was very drafty with little to no insulation. There were plumbing issues also. Michael knew this was a problem that could be fixed.
He teamed up with his colleagues in Human Services and leveraged resources from various programs: Weatherization Plus Health, Minor Home Repairs, Aging and Disability Resources, and the Health Department. This collaboration allowed the team to:
- fix safety issues including replacing the deck and railings, stairs, roof, and floor;
- insulate the attic;
- ventilate the home;
- install a ductless heat pump with an air purification unit, bath fans and a kitchen range hood; and sealed the air leaks to prevent drafts; and
- give him a cold plasma air purification unit, a “Green Clean Kit,” walk off mats, bed bug covers for his mattress and pillow, and a hygrometer so he can keep track of indoor humidity levels.
When Michael came to do the final home inspection, David could not sit still! He was constantly on the move with no shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing. He says this work “changed his life.” He said he now sleeps better, is sick much less often, rarely sees his doctor, and spends most of his free time helping others in the community.
David shared with me how thankful he is for everything that he has and receives. He has Medicare and Medicaid and a primary care physician less than two miles away to help him treat his asthma. His heating bills dropped from $350 a month to $130 every 65 days. He can now afford to pay his bills for which he is very grateful. He was afraid that when the team came to look at his roof, they were going to fall through it. He considers it a miracle now that it is fixed. David said, “I am happy, thankful, and blessed. Everything they said they were going to do, they did!”
We all know of similar stories. They are rarely told. Helping people like David is what we do!
For further information regarding the Weatherization services we provide, please contact Teri Allen at 253.798.6115. This is why we do what we do!
Thanks for reading,