HUNTINGTON — Thanks to a new ramp built by out-of-town volunteers, Mary Perry’s mother will be able to easily leave and enter her home.
Project SHINE is underway in Highlawn, the West End and Fairfield. Through the city of Huntington initiative, visiting volunteers will complete exterior work on homes throughout the summer. The first workgroup started Monday.
Perry said her family moved into the house in Highlawn about 15 years ago. She said the old wheelchair ramp needed to be replaced as it was damaged during winter storms and someone fell on it recently, getting injured. Her father built the ramp.
“My dad, he always kept up with everything, but when we lost him, things have just been difficult to do,” Perry said.
When she heard the house had been selected for Project SHINE, Perry said it felt like a huge relief. Perry said the work on the house was “a blessing.” The ramp adds to her mother’s quality of life, Perry added.
Ben Newhouse, a community and development specialist with the city of Huntington, said about 1,000 volunteers will visit Huntington this summer to do work on the homes. After that, Project SHINE will start contract work to rehabilitate homes.
“SHINE is about a rejuvenation of the housing stock, about rehabilitation, volunteer rehab,” Newhouse said. The volunteers often sign up through organizations like their church, travel to a location like Huntington and work on homes for a week.
Earlier this year, applications opened for residents in the three Huntington neighborhoods to submit their properties for the program. Some qualifications were based on income, and the homeowner must reside in the single-family home. Newhouse said the program is still taking inquiries as Project SHINE is looking for possible contract work for emergency situations.
“I think some of our housing stock has gotten to the point where some of it is on the back end of the curve and some of these things just need a little bit of modification to make them habitable,” Newhouse said. “So, if we can make a small investment with workcamps or contracted assistance, we can save a ton of money in litigation and in court fees and investigation and demo.”
Project SHINE is a preventative tool to keep houses from deteriorating until the only option is demolition, Newhouse said. Last October, the city set a goal of removing 119 structures from its unsafe buildings list.
The city earmarked $150,000 toward Project SHINE, Newhouse said. The program also received Community Block Development Grant funding of about $125,000. The West Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund gave $100,000 for rehabilitation and $15,000 for housing counseling. The project also received $50,000 from the Benedum Foundation and $50,000 from the AEP Foundation. Project SHINE also made applications to private entities to fund the program in the future. Over the next three years, about 300 houses could be rehabilitated in Huntington, Newhouse said.
Gary Steed, of Findlay, Ohio, volunteered with Appalachia Service Project, a group that is in town this week with Project SHINE. He said the volunteers feel like they are called to give back to the communities they serve. He said he hopes the work they are doing this week leaves an impact on Huntington.
“We’re called to be servants. And this is just one way to do that,” Steed said.
Perry said she does think that the repairs on houses will have “a positive impact” in the city’s neighborhoods and give residents a positive outlook on Huntington.
“It’s definitely going to brighten up the area,” Perry said.
To learn more about Project SHINE, visit huntingtonshine.com.