This summer, Red Feather worked with partners to host two hardworking crews of young adults who fixed up 90 Northern Cheyenne homes. You may recall last summer we partnered with St Labre Indian School and Catholic Heart Work Camp to paint, build wheelchair ramps, and perform other maintenance and safety repairs on 40 Northern Cheyenne Homes. This summer those same organizations and even more volunteers did similar work on 47 homes. And if that wasn’t enough, a few weeks later another group of volunteers from Group Work Camp came and were able to similarly fix up 43 homes.
That's 90 homes improved in 2 weeks!
“These repair blitz’s take a lot of coordination and planning, but so much work gets done in such a short amount of time, we’ll do anything we can to help”, said John Marian, one of the head “trouble-shooters” for both weeks. “My job is to make sure the numerous workgroups have the tools and materials they need, understand the approach to take, and are following safety procedures…oh and having fun too,” he added with a smile.
Northern Cheyenne’s Housing Improvement Program was instrumental in helping to prioritize the projects and coordinate their successful completion. This marks another important example of how, by partnering with tribal agencies, Red Feather can bring resources from outside the tribe to help meet their needs. We are grateful to have such hardworking and caring partners.
As reported in the spring newsletter, Red Feather launched a new home weatherization program in April. The program is funded through a contract with Arizona Public Service (APS) which reimburses Red Feather for all qualified weatherization expenses incurred on APS customer homes up to $6,000 per home. APS provides electricity to those residents of Hopi and the Navajo Chapters of Tuba City and Cameron; at least to those fortunate enough to be connected to the grid. To get the program started we are partnering with the Hopi Village of Shungopavi, where we are grateful to have the guidance and assistance of their Village Community Service Administrator, Sandy Whitehair.
Since the program’s debut, the energy efficiency, comfort, health and safety of 15 homes that are occupied by 56 individuals have been drastically improved. An additional 16 homes are in-line for services, with new applications being submitted each week. We have contracted with a great weatherization expert, Eli Chamberlin of CozyHomes Inc. He is employing three full-time Hopi workers and is looking to hire another who is skilled in carpentry, and dry-walling. These are new jobs in the community that did not exist before.
Five households have been transitioned to Red Feather’s Native Home Resource Network (NHRN) program due to excessive health and safety issues in the home that make it ineligible for the weatherization program. NHRN is a program funded through a grant from Wells Fargo that matches families with housing needs to resources that exist either in their tribe or outside their tribe.
Customer satisfaction surveys from occupants of our weatherized homes have been overwhelmingly positive. “Thank you very much, for your excellent work will help so many families on improving their home where this kind of work would not have been possible.” Another comment we overheard was, “I’m actually looking forward to winter for once!”. To date over $60,000 has directly been invested in materials, labor, and educational outreach for the program and about 40% of that money stays in the community.
Red Feather could not be happier with how this program is developing and as soon as we have a little more experience with it we have plans to expand the program to other Hopi Villages and Navajo Chapters.
As the weather begins to turn from the heat of summer to the more pleasant temperatures of autumn, and before the cold sets in, it is the perfect time to think about weatherizing our homes. You’ll read throughout this newsletter the commitment that Red Feather is making to: educate people about the importance of weatherization, empower them to weatherize their homes, and ensure those who aren’t able to help themselves are not forgotten. You may ask yourself, why focus on weatherization? Or maybe even, what is it?
We all know a shelter’s purpose is to keep us alive first, and comfortable second; and it does this by shielding us from all manner of unpleasant weather: cold, hot, wet, wind, etc. What weatherization does, is make a home more resilient to those outside conditions, while at the same time lowering the family’s energy bill.
For those of us who are financially secure, we rarely consider what it takes to maintain a comfortable living environment. When the temperatures drop we just see a higher utility bill at the end of the month, pay it, and don’t give it much more thought. Imagine if changes in the weather meant your children would have less to eat, or you couldn’t afford the gas to get to work? Unfortunately, many in the tribes we serve struggle every winter to pay monthly heating bills. On average, households with incomes below the Federal Poverty Level pay 27% of their annual income simply on home energy bills.
There are numerous important reasons for all of us to limit our energy consumption. The obvious reasons are the harmful effects that the mining and burning of fossil fuels has on the water we drink and the air we breathe. Here is one of the less obvious ways that weatherization helps the planet. For the communities we serve, the most common heating source is wood. Tribal woodsmen are having to drive their trucks farther and farther to harvest younger and younger trees to keep reservation homes warm during the winter. Even a small improvement in the energy efficiency of those homes can help begin to restore those forests. Forests that we so urgently need to clean our air.
Finally, weatherization is an entry point for learning about home maintenance, and also draws the connection between home environment and occupant health. Our workshops not only build awareness of potential health and safety risks in the home, but also build the students’ confidence to address the smaller jobs themselves, and encourage collaboration with other community members for larger projects.
We are forever grateful for the support from electrical utility provider, APS, which is enabling us to educate people and weatherize homes in Arizona, and likewise for the grant we received from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which will allow us to teach a DIY Weatherization class for the Northern Cheyenne tribe in October. Where those funding sources leave off and your donations take-over is when we find problems in the homes of students that require more money to address. Your support is what enabled us to renovate the Curley family home which you will read about later in this newsletter. Please spread the word about this need and what we can all do together to address it. Please go to redfeather.og and “Donate Now.” Then stay tuned for an update on the families we were able to help together.