Meet Our Clients

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Meet Kenneth
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Kenneth has owned his Homewood home for 25 years now, but the house has been in his family since 1950. His aunt Pearl, who owned it previously, suggested in her later years that Kenneth’s growing family might need a larger place to call home. We met Kenneth late in 2019 and began his repair work. Due to COVID-19, his project was put on hold, but we were able to address a serious plumbing leak in his accessible bathroom through our emergency repair program and connect him with food access resources. We spent some time on the phone with Kenneth speaking about his experience with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh and this pandemic.
When asked about the history of his home, Kenneth offered:

"This home was my aunt’s home previously, and 25 years ago my late wife and I were looking to get out of the projects where I raised my family. My Aunt heard I was looking for a house to rent—we hadn’t been serious about it, but as the family was growing we got more serious. We had been paying $450 in rent, [she asked] “Do you think you and Donna can afford a 305$ mortgage?” I had never thought about a mortgage, I had only thought about rent […] this home is my legacy to my family.”

Prior to COVID-19, Kenneth said that he had been enjoying his retirement and his teenage grandchildren (who live at home with him), though he had found himself a little overwhelmed after losing his wife of 45 years. On top of the large emotional toll, it was also a big loss of income. He had lost the person that he had always shared responsibilities with.

“For me, not having her in my life anymore— [even though] I had my grandkids, I had my daughter who is a great support. [But by] just losing the income, I found that my house was in a deteriorating state and without that income I wasn’t able to address these issues.”
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Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh connected Kenneth to the Senior Commodity Supplemental Food Program so that he could more easily meet his basic needs. Kenneth is unable to eat some of the foods due to dietary restrictions, so he's taken to sharing with those that may be in need in his neighborhood.
After the loss of his wife, he reached out to the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging for assistance, and they suggested that he seek out grief counseling through UPMC. Through that resource, and in sharing some of his difficulties, his grief counselor at UPMC suggested that he apply for services through Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh. A while later, Kenneth was sitting out on his front porch when Gabby DeMarchi from Operation Better Block (OBB), a Homewood community development corporation, had been walking through the neighborhood and stopped to chat.

“She introduced herself as being with OBB and once again RTP came up and she was saying how OBB was in collaboration with a lot of programs and I shared with her what I had learned from the grief counseling program, and one thing led to another and it felt like destiny that I ended up getting services from RTP.”

When asked what he found most difficult about social-distancing mandates, he said:

“It’s been difficult to be cooped up with a house full of teenage grandchildren. The seriousness has finally settled in. I don’t go out because of health-related issues but my daughter goes for me. This has brought my family closer together. My faith brings me a lot of comfort. With COVID-19 everything came to a standstill. Some of the work was completed, the outdoor and façade work, but when it came time for the inside work, COVID struck. I had gotten excited about everything that was going to get done, and then it abruptly came to a stop, but I haven’t lost my gratitude.”
 
Meet Patricia
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Patricia has owned her home in McKees Rocks for 16 years. She was selected to receive services from Rebuilding Together in 2020, but her project has been postponed due to COVID-19. When we are able, we will return to Patricia’s home to complete much needed repairs that will improve functionality and accessibility. In the interim, our Programs team has connected her with social services and food access programs that will help her shelter in place during this pandemic. Patricia agreed to answer a few of our questions about her experience with RTP and in coping with social distancing measures in general.
(Responses have been edited for clarity).
Life changed for all of us this March. I’d like to take a few moments to remember with you what life was like at the beginning of this year. What did a normal day feel like to you?

"I decided to go back to school this year; I started in February. The virus has put a stop to all my plans. I can’t go to school now and I’m stuck in the house. I ache as it is and sitting around just makes it worse. It took so long to decide what to do with myself, and now this happened! Working online is difficult with my limited experience with technology. I’d go to tutors at the school before, who were experienced in helping older persons. My son has been helping when he’s able, but he’s young and doesn’t have the same patience."

What do you miss most from those days?

"Going to school! I’m a people person and I like being out and about, getting on the bus to go see people."

What concerned you most as the COVID-19 crisis gained momentum?

"I’ve been most concerned about my 79-year-old diabetic mother who lives in Oakland. I also worry about my health because I have COPD and arthritis, and my immune system is low because of the medications I’m on."

How has social distancing affected you most?

"It’s very difficult to get to the grocery store; getting food and getting to my doctor on the bus now is just impossible. I have to depend on other people to get things for me, and I’m not used to that. Going to school got me on my feet and out of the house. Coronavirus and having to stay home more has made by body ache more."

What has RTP done that has been most helpful to you?

"I was so worried about getting food—my son’s car had broken down, so he wasn’t able to help me get what I needed—but Jule (Client Relations Coordinator at RTP) called me right on time. I have all the groceries I need now. I have something to eat. The people who have come have been so polite. If I could let them in and hug them I would! They also connected me to the Lawrenceville United Buddy Program so that I could get some of the things I needed that I couldn’t get from the food boxes. Jule calls to check in on me regularly. I won’t forget that, ever—to have someone call and make sure that I’m okay during this time, it means a lot."

Even though this is a difficult time for people, what keeps you going each day?

"My friends and the people I’m meeting keep me going, my neighbors and my family. I look forward to when people come to make these deliveries. You know I’m the type of person that is always looking out for other people. I’m so appreciative to have someone else looking after me during this time."