Veteran Robert Stewart has lived in his North Aurora home for more than a quarter of a century. His two decades of service in the Army Corps of Engineers included tours in Korea, Vietnam and Germany. Yet Robert returned home to Colorado in 1977 with a spinal injury that has limited his mobility ever since and worsened as he has aged. As a result, his home has fallen into disrepair.
Even with assistance from his daughter and son-in-law, who have moved in with Robert to serve as his caretakers, the family has been unable to make the critical repairs their home so desperately needs.
Safe and healthy housing can have an enormous impact on one’s mental, physical and economic wellbeing. As we mark National Wellness Month this August, the story of Robert and his family is far too common in North Aurora and beyond.
Amid skyrocketing housing prices and maintenance costs, longtime residents like Robert are struggling to remain in the homes and communities that they cherish. Between 2018 and 2020, the number of Aurora residents experiencing homelessness grew by 20 percent. And that number has likely risen even more rapidly amid the pandemic.
This challenge is having an outsized impact on Aurora’s Ward 1, where Robert and his family live. Our communities should be doing all we can to ensure that Robert and other neighbors in need can remain living safely in their homes.
That’s why, last year, local nonprofit Rebuilding Together Metro Denver, an affiliate of the national organization Rebuilding Together, and Denver-based vacation rental company Evolve launched a partnership to address this critical issue impacting our neighbors. Founded in 1999, Rebuilding Together Metro Denver has served hundreds of economically-challenged communities and thousands of homeowners who are veterans, older adults and people with disabilities living on minimal incomes by providing no-cost critical home repairs. Evolve, meanwhile, focuses on taking a modern approach to hospitality, including offering bookings that give back.
In 2021, Evolve launched its Building Hospitality program, a philanthropic initiative focused on repairing homes and revitalizing communities nationwide. Since last year, Evolve has pledged more than $650,000 to Rebuilding Together to help those in need.
As a result of this partnership, Robert was one of four homeowners who received no-cost home repairs this past May alone. Fixes to his home included installing thresholds to provide more privacy, fresh coats of paint, mounting grab bars in the bathroom and, most importantly, repairs that gave him a bedroom again, as he had previously been forced to reside in a hospital bed in the shared living room.
And while these fixes themselves can be transformational for neighbors like Robert, the impact of having a safe and healthy home extends much further.
In fact, in an extensive study of its nationwide impact, Rebuilding Together found that 60 percent of neighbors reported an increased feeling of inclusion within their neighborhood after repairs. Half of neighbors said their mental health improved, and almost 90 percent of neighbors who weren’t planning on aging in place in their homes considered it very likely following repairs.
Ensuring safe and healthy housing for neighbors like Robert across Aurora and the greater Denver area takes a village. This National Wellness Month, we hope you’ll commit to join us in that effort. If you or someone you know needs assistance making critical home repairs, or you’d like to get involved in volunteer opportunities, please visit https://www.rebuildingdenver.org/.
Together, we can work to rebuild lives and revitalize communities.
Jodie Liddy is the executive director of Rebuilding Together Metro Denver, which has helped thousands of low-income homeowners with free critical health and safety repairs. Alison Meadows is the chief people officer at Evolve, the Denver-based vacation home rental agency.