Programs assist Lake County seniors with home repairs, lawn care – News-Herald
Making costly repairs to a house or maintaining a yard can be daunting tasks to elderly homeowners with limited incomes or debilitating health problems.
However, senior citizens in Lake County facing these challenges can seek help from assorted programs offered by local government entities and social service agencies.
Some of these endeavors are not geared exclusively to senior citizens, but they still welcome applications or inquiries from elderly homeowners who are looking to have work done at their properties.
The Lake County Housing Rehabilitation Program provides income-eligible residents with funding to make emergency repairs to their homes, as well as mobility and access repairs and modifications.
“It’s not just for seniors,” said Toni Marie Ciliberto, program manager for Western Reserve Community Development Corp, which administers the county program.
Lake County uses US Department of Housing and Urban Development income guidelines for households, based on the number of members residing in a dwelling.
Western Reserve Community Development Corp. approves applications; conducts initial inspections of all properties and puts together a scope of work for eligible projects; secures bids from contractors and recommends the best and lowest bid for approval by county commissioners; inspects all projects upon completion; and if standards are met, the contractor pays directly.
Emergency repairs for the program could range from roof repairs to replacement of furnaces and hot water tanks. Examples of mobility and access repairs might involve constructing an access ramp leading into and out of a house, or removing a bathtub and putting in a walk-in shower, Ciliberto said.
Deferred loans are provided to income-eligible homeowners, with slightly different terms of debt forgiveness for the two project categories.
Western Reserve Community Development Corp. also administers the city of Mentor’s Single Family Housing Rehabilitation Program. Mentor offers its own program because it receives Community Development Block Grant funds separately from Lake County.
One other program handled by the development corporation that is open specifically to seniors is the Home Maintenance, Modification and Repair Program for Seniors.
“That is for people 60 years and older,” Ciliberto said. “We mostly do grab bars and hand grips, and interior and exterior railings.”
A fact sheet on the program says that it provides assistance for emergency repairs and modifications that contribute to the health and safety of a senior citizen’s home. Funding for these projects comes from the Lake County senior citizens Levy.
Ciliberto said the work that she does to help Lake County residents secure assistance for emergency home repairs is rewarding.
“It makes me happy when I’m able to approve an application,” she said.
In Willoughby Hills, a program called WHISPER helps senior citizens with services such as home maintenance and lawn care, as well as house cleaning, meals, companionship and transportation to medical appointments.
WHISPER stands for Willoughby Hills Isolated Senior Program for Everyday Relief. This program, launched by the Willoughby Hills government administration in 2009, provides services year-round, and not just during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays when many other programs are in force.
The program’s efforts to provide services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic have been limited, said Gloria Majeski, Willoughby Hills executive assistant to the mayor.
Volunteers conducted a few leaf-raking projects in the fall, and have transported a few residents to medical appointments, Majeski said in a recent interview. However, health and safety risks posed by COVID-19 have made it difficult for volunteers to help residents inside their homes.
Since its inception, WHISPER has assisted senior citizens with projects such as painting, wallpapering a bathroom, gutter cleaning, construction of wheelchair ramps, weeding flower beds and trimming bushes.
WHISPER also served as the inspiration for a similar program launched recently by government leaders in Perry Village.
PITCH In will recruit and assign volunteers to help people in need with various work to be done inside or outside their homes. Examples of tasks might include washing windows, lawn and yard care, and cleaning gutters.
Perry Village Council members Jean Schonauer and Rick Walker decided to launch a community assistance program in 2019, and met with Majeski to learn about the background and operations of WHISPER.
Although PITCH In’s formation was slowed by restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has gotten back on track. A strong push is being made to bolster the recognition of PITCH In through social media. A recruitment event for volunteers also was held last fall at Lee Lydic Park in the village.
At this point, a steering committee that’s overseeing PITCH In is waiting for prospective volunteers to get required background checks to build a roster of helpers who are available to fulfill various requests for services from clients.