Habitat Philadelphia doesn’t just build homes. Our Critical Home Repair Program, strategically launched in 2011, provides home repairs and weatherization improvements to low-income homeowners in Philadelphia who cannot otherwise afford these repairs. Our work helps to preserve homes and stabilize families—providing an immediate, profound, and long-lasting impact on quality of life for homeowners, their blocks, and their neighborhoods.
Sandy Pralour (photo center, with her granddaughter, brother, and daughter at home) grew up in the house where she was born, in the Sharswood neighborhood of North Philadelphia. The home has a rich history for Sandy—five generations of her family have lived there. When the house caught fire in 2007, it was more than physical possessions that she lost. “I stood and watched the firemen on the roof with their hatchets,” Sandy says. “My heart dropped to my feet and I started crying.” In a few short minutes, an invaluable part of her life was devastated.
But Sandy couldn’t let her family’s home go: “I never even considered selling this house,” she says. She stayed in the small part of the house that hadn’t been damaged, hiring contractors to do limited work whenever she had the money. “I was paying different contractors to redo one room at a time, since that’s all I could afford,” she says. “But they would take advantage of me and walk away with my money.” One contractor installed electrical wiring incorrectly, leaving the home at risk of catching fire again. Another was paid to clean out the basement—but instead stole the house’s copper water pipes. Sandy was at a loss—what hadn’t been destroyed in the fire was now unlivable without electricity or water.
Fast forward to 2015, when Sandy heard about Habitat Philadelphia’s Critical Home Repair Program at a community meeting. “The program sounded so good, I didn’t think it was possible!” she says. She applied right away. Habitat’s repair program charges homeowners a sliding-scale percentage of the total cost of the materials for their home repairs—meaning that Sandy could finally afford repairs that she could trust. She worked alongside Habitat’s Home Repair team to remediate the fire damages. Experts rewired the entire home to meet building and fire codes, while Sandy helped Habitat staff and volunteers to install new drywall, flooring and trim, and give the house a brand new coat of paint.
Since completing these critical repairs, Sandy often invites neighbors in to see her home. “All of the people I knew growing up, they come in here now and say, ‘It doesn’t look like the same house! It looks bigger! Brighter!’” More importantly, Sandy has seen how much of a difference it makes to have a safe, comfortable, healthy home once more—she notices the changes, large and small. “I can smile again,” she says. And the repairs are significant for her daughter and grandchildren, too. “My daughter Sonya and her three kids come over to visit all the time. We sit and watch movies, eat popcorn, and laugh. We look at old family photographs. We can all enjoy this home as a family again.”