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‘We could’ve been homeless’: Portland home repair program helps people stay off the streets

The program has helped 200 families in the Portland region who were on the verge of homelessness keep their houses.

HILLSBORO, Ore. — There are many different reasons for why people become homeless. One of them is because their home or apartment fell into disrepair so badly, they couldn't live there anymore. 

Habitat for Humanity has a program that prevents that. 

Their latest project was in a Hillsboro neighborhood where mainly elderly and disabled people live. Many of them live in older homes that need timely, expensive repairs or else they’ll lose them altogether.

Brian McVickar is one of the people living in the neighborhood off Southeast River Road. He couldn’t get up his steps into his home due to his health. 

“I couldn't walk and then coming up and down the stairs was really hard for me,” McVickar said. 

His house was also in need of serious repairs. 

“Water from the roof was leaking and we had some black mold,” he explained.

 He and his wife were on the verge of losing it unless the repairs were made, which was something he couldn't afford.

“We possibly could've been homeless,” said McVickar. “I've never been homeless, but I don't think it would be very much fun, I see homeless today here in Hillsboro and I tell you, I really feel sorry for them.”

“I think one of the most important things we need to do related to the houselessness crisis is helping people stay in the homes,” said Steve Messinetti the president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Portland Region. “We've often seen how families, seniors can be one critical repair away from losing their home.” 

Through their Home Repair Program, they've helped over 200 families in the Portland region, many of them seniors like McVickar, keep their homes and ultimately stay off the streets.

“This is not a band aid approach but really getting to the root of the problem,” said Messinetti.

They built McVickar  a ramp leading to his front door, installed new windows and fixed his plumbing. 

“What we've learned is often the most affordable home that folks can have been the one that they're already in,” explained Messinetti. 

But beyond the physical repairs they gave McVickar and others so much more. 

“It gave me my independence back,” said McVickar. “It’s a relief and just feels very good."

The Home Repair Program through Habitat for Humanity has been around for a while, but recently more and more people are needing their help. Their goal this year is to do 55 home repairs, which is about double the amount they typically do. 

In order to make that happen, they're looking for more donations and volunteers.

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