For years patches upon patches held together Judy Craft’s 1940s bungalow in southwest Atlanta. But rudimentary fixes were no match for the rainstorms that pounded the city last December. On Christmas Day, the friendly 69-year-old widow watched as her dining room ceiling collapsed, opening the house to the cold sky.
Craft’s daughter, Evelyn, turned to the internet for emergency help and found a number for HouseProud Atlanta, a small Chosewood Park nonprofit that’s aided more than 700 low-income seniors since 1992. It provides home maintenance and repairs—everything from new toilets and wheelchair ramps to entire roofing or plumbing systems—for free. After performing a quick site analysis and getting quotes from contractors, HouseProud had the damage fixed in a few days, at no cost to the Craft family.
Needy homeowners can seek repair assistance from a handful of larger agencies, such as Meals on Wheels or Senior Connections, but HouseProud leaders and clients say their personalized approach is unique. Years of attending neighborhood meetings has ingratiated them to the small geographic zone they serve (an NPU-specific crescent of communities south of downtown, from Summerhill to Cascade). Their sole focus, repairing or maintaining the homes of seniors, has made them experts. Their average client is a widowed black woman living on less than $800 per month.
“For a lot of [clients], their home is their life,” says executive director Lisa Jones. “We want to make sure they have the option to stay.”
HouseProud’s record-high $389,000 budget for 2016, raised mostly from corporate sponsorships, covers two full-time salaries (Jones and program manager Al Shugart) as well as all supplies and contractor fees. They do receive a bit of federal funding, and Home Depot often supplies gift cards. But the operation is lean and relies on hundreds of volunteers—nearly 800 last year alone—to fulfill its mission of keeping seniors “warm, safe, and dry” in their existing homes.
The elbow grease is paying off. The Atlanta BeltLine selected HouseProud as a partner this year to repair eight houses along the under-construction Westside Trail at up to $25,000 each—relatively princely sums.
Another beneficiary, 69-year-old Ruby Dickerson and her husband, Robert, 72, of Cascade, were aghast to learn a sorely needed new roof would cost $5,000 that they didn’t have. HouseProud replaced it. “I’ve been in this house almost 50 years,” says the retired hospital clerk. “When I saw that brand-new roof, I cried. I’ll be forever grateful.”
This article originally appeared in our September 2016 issue.