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Habitat for Humanity keeps homeowner from going underwater

January 6, 2019

WINONA — From the cracks in the ceiling, it’s obvious what happened.

Water, from a leak in the roof, has damaged the ceiling of Pam Hall’s bathroom.

One floor below, the ceiling in the living room has similar problems, cracks, flaking plaster, discoloration. The floor of the living room under the ceiling damage has some issues as well.

“You could see the water running down the wall,” Hall said.

She first noticed the problem — a leaky roof leading to interior damage — at some point in 2017. The solution seemed obvious. Hall needed a new roof on her century-old home just west of downtown Winona. But the price tag, likely $10,000, was more than she could afford.

Still, this was her home. Each room was painted its own color, decorated tastefully and neatly. She had several do-it-yourself additions, such as shutters and a brick flower garden. But the roof was more than she could handle either as a DIY task or to pay someone else to do the job.

Hall needed help.

“I called my bank,” she said. “The one I have my mortgage with, but they said no because I didn’t have enough equity for a $10,000-$12,000 loan.”

The bank suggested SEMCAC. The community action agency for Southeast Minnesota offers home-improvement funding, but clients must meet income requirements, and Hall was above the threshold.

Hall felt trapped. She didn’t make enough money to pay for the repairs herself, but she made too much for the charitable organization.

Meanwhile, she’d switched off the fuse to her bathroom because one good rainstorm might short out her house. And using the bathroom during a storm meant getting rained upon while answering nature’s call.

With the power off in her bathroom and a leaky roof still causing problems, Hall took the advice from SEMCAC and called Habitat for Humanity Winona-Fillmore Counties. The agency, through its A Brush With Kindness program, helps with exterior home repair or renovation projects at low costs and with no-interest loans.

Habitat’s executive director, Amanda Hedlund, said that while roof repair or replacement is one of the standard jobs the organization does for clients, Hall’s roof was not the standard job.

The roof on her home is especially steep, Hedlund said, meaning Habitat could not use volunteers to do the job. It needed to use one of its professional roofing partners, in this case it used Legegar Roofing from La Crosse, one of its two professional roofing partners.

“The project was actually a really difficult one,” Hedlund said. “That they have time for us at all is really spectacular.”

Currently, Habitat in Winona has a backlog of 17 roofing projects that are too complicated for volunteer workers, and usually it gets to about six or so each year.

For the easier roofs, Hedlund said, the labor for the job is free — the organization’s volunteers do the work — and the homeowner pays for the materials. For roofs that require professional help, the homeowner pays for the labor, and Habitat get shingles through GAF, a national manufacturer of shingles, through a program that offers free materials.

Between roofs, repainting and other projects, A Brush With Kindness helps out with about 30 projects a year in the two-county region, Hedlund said.

After nearly a year on the waiting list, Hall’s project came up last summer, and Habitat worked with Legegar to get the job done in July. The roof was patched and reshingled.

What would have cost about $10,000, Hall said, came in at about half that. Hall put down $1,800 and is paying off a $3,000 no-interest loan to Habitat for the remainder.

“I feel like I’m right in the middle,” Hall said, referring to her efforts to find either a bank loan or help from SEMCAC before going to Habitat. “I’m glad Habitat was here, because without them I don’t know if I’d be giving the bank back my house.”

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