Aurora Safety First program helps homeowners make fixes
By Michelle du Vair For The Beacon-News October 25, 2012 2:56PM
For information about the Safety First program or other programs offered by the Joseph Corporation:
Call Dennis Wiggins, Joseph Corporation executive director, 630-906-9400.
Visit Joseph Corporation’s headquarters at 32 S. Broadway in Aurora.
Updated: November 30, 2012 6:05AM
AURORA — For years, Sylvia Gord watched the concrete steps of her front porch deteriorate. Little by little they crumbled and with it went the railing, until finally she installed wood over the remaining concrete so she could gain entrance to her Aurora home.
It didn’t look very good, but that’s not what concerned her. It wasn’t safe.
“It stays with you, all the time, that worry,” says Gord, 71. “Sure, I knew I had to fix it, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to do.”
In April 2011, a friend told her about the Joseph Corporation, a community-based nonprofit organization designed to help people purchase as well as remain in their homes. Through the Joseph Corporation’s Safety First program, Gord was able to have new porch steps installed, complete with wooden railing.
“The railing is important, especially for an older woman, because you have to have a railing where your hand can go around it,” she said.
It turns out the Joseph Corporation discovered a lot more that was dangerous both inside and outside of Gord’s home, all of which she was able to have repaired thanks to the $4,999 grant from Safety First.
“With everything that was done, I feel truly safe now,” says Gord. “I truly appreciate everything.”
Gord is not alone. Now in its second year, the Joseph Corporation’s Safety First program is able to assist about 50 homes annually, given its $235,000 grant from the city’s community development block grant funds. The program is renewable annually but has been approved again for 2013.
“The goal is to bring the houses up to a level where they’re safe, so that the quality and integrity of the home is preserved in our community,” said Dennis Wiggins, executive director of the Joseph Corporation.
But there are a few conditions. Applicants must live within the city limits of Aurora and have a household income that cannot exceed 80 percent of the area’s median income as defined by HUD. For Aurorans, that would mean $60,650 in a four-person household.
Once approved, a Joseph Corporation staff member reviews the project with the homeowner and, if need be, alters it.
“If they say they need a new roof and we say it’s good for three years, but you do need electrical work, then we can change the scope of the work,” says Wiggins. “The safety need has to be there.”
In addition to the safety priority, there are limits on the scope of the project. For example, if a home needs a $7,000 roof repair, the Joseph Corporation can only give up to $4,999, meaning the homeowner has to come up with the rest or risk being turned away.
“In order to get 50 applicants that qualify, about 200 have to apply,” said Wiggins. “So we’re encouraging people to come on in and fill out an application.”
Time is a factor, according to Wiggins. Applicants must prove eligibility, which means filling out paperwork properly. Once approved, the Joseph Corporation must then solicit three bids from qualified contractors before the grant is distributed. And that takes more time.
Still, the program does work, so much so that last year there was a 30-household waiting list.
This year, residents must apply before Dec. 31, by contacting Wiggins at 630-906-9400, or Joseph Corporation offices at 32 S. Broadway.
“There’s no shame in getting help when you need it. There’s no putting your head down,” said Gord. “Without these organizations that step forward to help seniors or low-income people or single mothers, where would we be?”