On the job today with a client of the Berkeley Home Repair program are CESC technicians Jesús Avila and Gary Lopez. Jesús has been working with CESC since 2006–he’s celebrating his tenth year with the organization this summer.
Today’s client is Kathy, age 85 and a Berkeley resident for over 30 years. CESC has been helping Kathy with home repairs since 2009, when she enrolled in the Berkeley Home Repair Program. Kathy is grateful for the many repairs and renovations CESC has made over the years, because she couldn’t have managed them on her own. She describes her financial situation like this: “After I pay property tax, there’s nothing left for repairs.” She doesn’t have a lot of family nearby to help. “When you’re really low-income, it’s very helpful to have a program like this.” (You can see a video about Kathy and another program client in 2015 on YouTube.)
One of the best features of the Berkeley and Oakland programs is that clients can continue to take part year after year, which deepens trust in the program as clients grow older. Jesús says that he knows all of the clients in the Berkeley program–if not by name, then by address, he admits with a chuckle. Although some clients are prickly at first, since their situations can be difficult, the mutual respect that develops eventually smoothes things over.
Kathy recalls some repairs made by CESC over the years: a door to the garage, front screen door, new toilets, a grab bar, an outdoor stairs railing. Just last year CESC fixed an issue with the kitchen faucet and repaired the fence that had been broken by a big cedar tree.
The current visit is about a leaky shower and kitchen sink. Jesús recalls many of the repairs mentioned by Kathy, and you can tell that Kathy trusts him. On one past visit, Jesús installed a new front security door. Repairing that broken screen door was actually an important safety repair because the extra layer makes the house harder to break into. On another visit, Jesús noticed a “live” but unused gas line on the outside of the house, which could have been dangerous. He capped the line.
On this visit, Jesús and Gary examine the leaky shower and find a sopping wet towel on the floor to soften the sound of the drip at night. A repair will save considerable water, and the reduced moisture will probably improve the indoor air quality, too.
Kathy’s house is built on a slope; Jesús explains that the leak repair will be tricky because the shower pipes are below the level of the crawl space. Nevertheless, four hours later, the new pipes, fixtures, and showerhead have been installed. Next: fix the downstairs sink.
Jesús says that the most common repairs in the home repair program are: installing an ADA-compliant toilet and shower grab bar, fixing leaky faucets, and installing or repairing outdoor lights. Simple measures such as these can prevent falls, save the client money and bring an extra layer of security that adds to peace of mind.
A long-time Berkeley resident, Jesús likes helping people, especially those in his own Berkeley neighborhood. He credits the success of the program to this organizational value: “We respect people.” Jesús also works in the home repair programs in Antioch and Oakland. He does have one wish, though. Currently in the Berkeley program, the team is not able to respond immediately to urgent problems because of paperwork issues. This is a change from the past, and he’d love to be able to solve problems more quickly.
Do you know someone in Berkeley, Oakland, or Contra Costa County who could benefit from our Home Repair Program? Contact us to see if they qualify.
Would you like to support our Oakland Home Repair program? Currently need is greatly outstripping resources; your support will help an Oakland senior be more resilient. Donate here.