St. Charles Church, Living Cully Partner on Mobile Home Repairs
Laura Peraza woke up every night fearing that her roof would not last another day. The dripping in her living room would require her to get up and empty a bucket placed under the leak several times a night during heavy rain, and she feared an electrical issue with the moisture in her home. “I had trouble sleeping, thinking that if the there was a problem with the electricity my family would be in danger”, Laura recalls.
Laura, her husband Manuel and two kids live at Arbor Mobile home park in Cully and are very engaged in the neighborhood; Laura works for Latino Network with families in the schools. She is also the vice president of the PTA at Rigler Elementary, sits on the social justice committee at St. Charles Church and is an active member of the Cully Housing Action Team (CHAT). In January 2016 at a meeting with the social justice committee at St. Charles Church Laura started to talk about the condition of some of the mobile home parks at the Arbor, including her own. As Laura told them “from the street the park looks ok, but when you go into the park, many of the trailers are in disrepair, and people are living with the fear that their roof won’t last the winter…”.
Laura had applied to several home repair programs to see if they could help, and had been told that her trailer was beyond repair. So when Gabe Triplett at St. Charles, said they could help, she was ecstatic, “At first I didn’t believe him, but he called me a few weeks later and told me he had the materials and volunteers lined up to fix the roof” Laura muses.
St. Charles, along with other churches in the neighborhood had begun meeting with Living Cully a few months prior to discuss some of the needs in the neighborhood around housing, and how they could help. The mobile home parks, Cully has five, had been identified as a place where their efforts could have a real positive impact. Many of the materials for the trailer repair at Laura’s home came out of the ongoing de-construction efforts at Living Cully Plaza. Donations for the remaining supplies came from St. Charles, Living Cully, and Habitat for Humanity.
On February 20th, neighbors from the Cully Housing Action Team, volunteers from St. Charles youth group and many others joined Laura and her family as they began the arduous work of tearing off the existing roof and building a new one. A neighbor and contractor, Walt Quade, along with Gabe Triplett helped with the design and technical aspects of the project. The mood was festive as neighbors brought over food, helped load the truck with debris, and ripped down the old roof. Even for those who didn’t have building skills there was plenty to do. “I was so happy and excited that day. I couldn’t believe how many people showed up to help, men, women, children, some who I had never met before, came out to help” says Laura. The work didn’t end that day, but the new roof was up for the most part by the following day. Neighbors, friends and family, including Gabe and Walt continued to show up for the next few weeks to help finish the project, clean up and finish the interior. Laura reflects “I feel so much safer now. Now when it rains I am not praying for it to stop, I can appreciate the rain again.”
Living Cully and St. Charles are working on plans for more mobile home repairs at Arbor and have started meeting with interested families as well as applying for grant funding to support the project. In the meantime, Laura continues to advocate and encourage her neighbors to get involved. She hosted a Cully Housing Action Team meeting in the end of May at her home to encourage her neighbors to speak up, and be a part of the change. As she says “Many more of our neighbors need roof repairs too. This project doesn’t end here. The community needs to continue to work together. I realized on the day of the roof repair when neighbors started showing up and saying they wanted to help–that is how we can continue this project; neighbors helping neighbors. It is a lot of work and one person can’t take it on by themselves”