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Weatherization makes houses into affordable, comfortable homes

3/3/2017

Julie Ward, 73, sits in a room smiling at the cameraJulie Ward, 73, an ovarian cancer survivor confined to a wheelchair, did her best to keep her home warm in the chilly Arkansas winters. Since her home had no insulation, Ward attempted to wrap her house with black plastic in a futile effort to keep the cold out and the warmth in. Fortunately, Crawford Sebastian Community Development Corp. (CSCDC) came to her rescues with its Weatherization Program, replacing the plastic with energy-efficient insulation.

According to CSCDC Executive Director Marc Baker, the Weatherization Program saves lives and money, particularly for the elderly, people with disabilities and children.

"Weatherization alleviates the high-energy burden faced by low-income Americans like Julie, and helps them gain increased financial independence," says Baker. "Our weatherization measures create an average annual cost savings of $136 for electricity and $986 for natural gas, and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by an average of one ton per weatherized house."

In the last five years, CSCDC has weatherized more than 600 homes and provided rehabilitation for more than 200 homes.

CSCDC is a community action agency located in Fort Smith, Arkansas, with a mission of improving the lives of low-income individuals and families and the communities in which they live, with a goal of helping clients achieve self-sufficient living. CSCDC administers the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program, which is designed to deliver energy efficiency services to low-income households.

One advantage of working though CSCDC is that it is able to leverage other resources to provide additional support for residents in need. For example, CSCDC weatherization auditors recently visited one woman (we will call her Ms. N) who was struggling with a monthly utility bill of $100 per month or more; leaky roof; damaged floor with a bathtub falling through it; and lack of gas, also due to a leak. CSCDC was able to leverage several resources to help Ms. N. The roof and gas leak were repaired using the city of Fort Smith's community development block grant program, and the floor was fixed and a handicap-accessible tub and commode were installed by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. Then, CSCDC deployed its Weatherization Program to replace 10 windows, add attic insulation, and install a smoke/carbon-monoxide detector and exhaust fan in the bathroom.

"It's so wonderful to be able to be comfortable in my home. I used to freeze during the winter and it was so hot in the summer," says Ms. N. "I couldn't use my gas before because the bill was just too high. Now the highest bill I've seen is $39. I'm actually able to start paying off some medical bills now."

Weatherization services are free for qualifying Arkansas residents who rent or own a single-family home, duplex or mobile home. All households receiving supplemental security income are automatically eligible, although preference is given to persons over 60, those with disabilities and, in some cases, children.

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