Seniors’ Christmas brightened by Colorado Springs home rehab ‘presents’

Seniors’ Christmas brightened by Colorado Springs home rehab ‘presents’

Debra Thum had been crawling up the stairs of her home following a series of heart attacks that left her constantly short of breath before her new stairlift was installed for free in December. 

The lift was just one piece of her home renovations that will allow her to stay in her home despite asthma and other health conditions, she said. Her family had been thinking about putting her in a nursing facility because they were worried she would fall down the stairs, she said.

“I have been so happy. … I want to put bows on everything,” said Thum, a retired home health aide. The renovations, including a walk-in shower, are her Christmas presents, she said. 

Thum is one of about 50 residents, mostly extremely low-income seniors, who had their homes remodeled this year through the city’s Home Repair Program, said Barb Van Hoy, policy analyst for the city’s Community Development Division. The city sets aside $500,000 each year in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for the program that helps keep seniors and other residents in need in their homes and ensure their housing is affordable, she said. 

“Think of a senior who may be getting a $400-$500 Social Security check each month. That doesn’t cover food, medicine and utilities, much less needed housing repairs. This program is a lifeline for these,” she said. 

The city provides $20,000 for renovations on homes and an additional $5,000 can be provided for lead-based paint or asbestos mitigation, she said. 

The high cap on individual renovations can make a huge difference for a senior with significant deferred home maintenance, said Jonathan Sandberg, home rehabilitation coordinator for Brothers Redevelopment, the nonprofit that runs the program for the city. 

For example, replacing an aging sewer line can help make a home far more livable and the line can last at least 50 years, but it can also be quite pricey, he said. 

Deborah Johnson’s sewer line replacement earlier this year was $9,000. It is a line that will hopefully keep her from ever standing ankle deep in sewer water in her basement again or from worrying about bills from Roto-Rooter, she said. 

Johnson, who is disabled in part because she broke her back and pelvis, used to live at the end of a 300 foot sewer line that flooded her entire basement at least four times since she moved into her home west of downtown in 1989, she said. So Johnson, a paraeducator who worked at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, was always stashing away money for the repair bills, she said. The last time it backed up, she had to tell guests not to use her toilet, she said. Now those worries are gone.

“I feel blessed,” she said. 

Low-income residents in need of home rehab can find out more about qualifying at

Published at Thu, 24 Dec 2020 21:45:07 +0000

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Written by Riel Roussopoulos


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