Turning Low-Lost Housing Into Homes
By Marcia Wood
(News Women's Writer)
A low-income family moves into a low-cost housing unit within the city. The family may discover that the house has no draperies or desperately needs a fresh coat of paint in the kitchen. A disappointing situation, but not for long if the Ann Arbor Jaycee Auxiliary gets wind of the need.
The Jaycee Auxiliary has dedicated itself to helping Ann Arbor families living in low-cost housing to develop pride in their homes. Such pride comes from making improvements in the condition of the home so that it is not only livable but attractive. Auxiliary members have theorized that by developing a family's pride in its residence, a certain pride in its community might develop concurrently, thus lessening urban ills.
The Jaycee wives have aptly named their efforts "Project Pride." Auxiliary member Mrs. Richard A. Fletcher became aware of the need for the such a project through her work with the Ann Arbor Board of Realtors. She is a secretary-bookkeeper for the Board.
The Board of Realtors has been providing a limited amount of low-cost housing within the city for the past four years and during that time has become well-acquainted with many of the problems which accompany such housing.
In October 1965, the Realtors organized a non-profit corporation called Ann Arbor Independent Housing, Inc. (AAIH) to help meet the city's emergency housing needs. Several local professional and business groups became sponsors of AAIH, and in October 1967 the sponsors agreed to make the corporation a division of the Ann Arbor-Washtenaw Council of Churches.
AAIH, also called Independent Housing, currently leases four of its eight available low-cost housing units to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, the city's chief source of low-cost housing. As founder of Project Pride, Mrs. Fletcher works closely with the officials of both low-cost housing agencies. She receives referrals about families needing "a bit of help with decorating" from Mrs. Joseph D. Mhoon, a city housing director, and from Dr. G. Merrill Lenox, executive director of AAIH.
Since the auxiliary initiated Project Pride seven months ago, it has worked with eight families. "These families often need a little help to make their households more pleasing," said Mrs. Fletcher. "They may never have handled curtain rods before or hung draperies. If they have no money to buy draperies we try to round some up. If money is available to buy curtains, we'll gladly assist in measuring the windows and in the subsequent shopping." Mrs. Fletcher emphasized that auxiliary members act as friends.
Each family is treated individually and is helped with its particular needs. In most cases, one auxiliary member is assigned per family. However, in some cases several of the auxiliary's 45 members may pitch in. One kitchen painting session in an Independent Housing unit occupied five auxiliary members and the low-income mother for five hours.
Other ways in which members have helped their families: by collecting lawnmowers and used furniture, by finding a rug for a child's cold bedroom floor, and by providing sheets.
The auxiliary several times has cleaned an AAIH house or apartment after one family has moved out in preparation for the arrival of the new occupants. "After all, no one wants to move into a dirty house," said Mrs. Fletcher.
On occasion Jaycee wives may also act as a go-between for the low-income family and the Housing Commission. Mrs. Fletcher recalled that in one case "a low-income mother commented to her Jaycee helper that their hot water heater was leaking. She didn't want to call the Housing Commission herself because she felt that she would be 'bothering' them. The auxiliary member made the call instead and the problem was taken care of shortly."
Project Pride is a continuing project, according to Mrs. Fletcher. She has worked with "her family" since last September, and the improvements and progress achieved have brought her much satisfaction.
How time consuming is the effort? It's difficult to estimate the hours each Jaycee Auxiliary helper spends with her assigned family. "One month you might spend 16 hours and the next, only three," Mrs. Fletcher said. "But I suppose it averages out to about two visits a month with each visit lasting about two hours. And of course we keep in touch by telephone in between get-togethers."
In the eyes of Project Prides' founder, the auxiliary's efforts have been a success. Mrs. Fletcher explained that 85 percent of the auxiliary's members have become involved to some degree in the project. Through their involvement they've walked in the shoes of others less fortunate, learned what their lives are like. Best of all, the families assisted have been quick and vocal at expressing their appreciation.
Community leaders share Mrs. Fletcher's enthusiasm. From the beginning Project Pride has had the support of Ann Arborites interested in low-cost housing.
Housing Director Mrs. Mhoon commenting on the project, said "The Jaycee auxiliary members give the families confidence. Such families have the innate abilities but they need support and confidence to feel that they can really do something. The residents are very grateful to their Jaycee helpers.
AAIH's executive housing director, Dr. Lenox, said "I think that it is most commendable for young married people to give attention to this important community need. This group has a real desire to help where help is needed most."
Dr. Lenox pointed out that an important facet of the project is that it allows families to help themselves so they can have a significant share in determining their own future.
He shares the Jaycee wives' belief that it is important in any community to have all citizens get involved at all levels.
Although the auxiliary's project is open only to its members, Mrs. Fletcher suggests that other interested townspeople may help the project by donating used furniture and household items.
Mrs. Williams, Daughter Ann Marie Clean Closet For New Tenant]
Getting Leads On Who Needs Help
Jaycee Auxiliary member Mrs. Richard A. Fletcher (right), founder of Project Pride, confers with Dr. G. Merrill Lenox (left), executive director of Independent Housing, and Mrs. Joseph D. Mhoon, city housing director. The two housing officials provide the auxiliary with the names of families living in low-cost who request "a bit of decorating help." (Photos by Cecil Lockard)]
Trying It On For Size
Installing draperies recently into a new home which Independent Housing built and leased to the Housing Commission are Jaycee Auxiliary members (from left) Mrs. Donald J. Schulz, Mrs. William M. Etzel, Mrs. William L. Hodson, and Mrs. David B. Williams. The little helpers are (from left) Suzanne Hodson, Susan Schulz and Ann Marie Williams.]
Ann Arbor Board of Realtors
Ann Arbor Housing
Ann Arbor Housing Commission
Ann Arbor Independent Housing Inc.
Ann Arbor News
Ann Marie Williams
G. Merrill Lenox
Mrs. Donald J. Schulz
Augusta W. Etzel
Mrs. William L. Hodson
Carol M. Williams
Mrs. Joseph D. Mhoon