City and University collaborate to repair Evanston homes

Ben Winck, Assistant City Editor

Two Evanston homes have safer exteriors, as a result of  a new project run by Evanston and Northwestern.

The project Rebuilding Evanston works to make major repairs on the exteriors of homes owned by low to moderate fixed-income senior citizens. Rebuilding Together North Suburban Chicago facilitates the the joint effort. Volunteers did renovations on two west Evanston homes last month as pilot run for the program.

“The residents of Evanston have a lot of needs, especially the seniors, and anytime that we can help them live their lives freer, more flexible, that’s a good thing,” deputy city manager Erika Storlie said. “There are more needs than there are resources.”

The team of over 50 volunteers included staff from Northwestern Neighborhood and Community Relations, the Office of Sustainability and Northwestern Facilities Management.

Planning for the project started in Fall 2015 at the suggestion of NU’s vice president of facilities John D’Angelo, said Alan Anderson, executive director of neighborhood and community relations.

NU then went to Evanston staff to identify properties in need of repairs, Anderson said. The pilot run in August is building toward the organization’s larger effort that will take place in April.

The team first fixed porch stairs and fencing for one house and installed a wheelchair ramp for the other. The addition of a ramp added necessary accessibility and allowed the residents to continue with their daily schedules, Storlie said.

“They were so excited because they hadn’t been to church in a long time, and we did this on Saturday and they had planned to go to church on Sunday,” Storlie said at a City Council meeting Monday. “They’ve been out of the house several times since.”

NU and Evanston staff are hoping to expand the program to include more homes and hold another service day in 2017. The first run went well and there’s definitely opportunity to grow, Anderson said.

Anderson told The Daily they were proud to help the two seniors.

“We hope to do more of this,” Anderson said at the council meeting Monday. “This was a pilot in some ways in terms of testing it out, so we’re looking forward to being able to do more of this, hopefully at the beginning of next year, with additional homes in the community.”

Anderson told The Daily that August’s pilot work day helped them figure out the logistics of the program, and they were hoping to include student volunteers in April’s Rebuilding Together Day.  

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said the program would help seniors with larger projects. Evanston already runs a “handyman” program that allows low and moderate-income seniors to contract small repairs in their home though a city-paid repair man.

“There’s a lot of seniors, and low and moderate-income people, who just can’t afford to do the kinds of renovations and things that need to be done to their homes,” she said. “That’s a big help to have someone come in and do the things that are necessary to get it back to the code.”

Nora Shelly contributed reporting.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benwinck