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Repairing Homes to Repair the World

Project Overview

Beautifying permanent supportive housing apartments for formerly homeless women suffering from mental illness.

Identifying the Problem

Homelessness is an epidemic in Washington, D.C., a stark contrast against the mass amount of wealth that exists in the nation’s capital. Indeed, one cannot walk more than a block without running into someone who is homeless. Much of the homeless population suffers from mental illness, but only a small portion is able to receive permanent supportive housing. While there are many organizations doing great work to provide housing to the city’s homeless, these same organizations rarely have the funds to maintain the housing. Milicent knew that it is important to do more than just put a roof over someone's head; we need to make sure that a person’s new home is as dignified and well-maintained as possible.

Having experience working with a non-profit organization focused on housing, Milicent knew she had skills and resources to offer in this area. She wanted to ensure that a particular group of people – formerly homeless women who suffer from mental illness – lived in housing that reflected their dignity and worth as human beings.

Creating A Solution

Milicent approached Open Arms Housing, an organization that provides housing to formerly homeless women with histories of mental illness, trauma, chronic poverty and unstable relationships. She explained her idea of gathering a group of volunteers to come beautify the women’s residence, and her interest in collaborating with Behrend Builders for the project. Behrend Builders is an organization that rebuilds and repairs low-income homes, shelters, schools and community centers in the Washington, D.C. area. Open Arms Housing was enthusiastic about the project, and Behrend Builders generously offered to provide supervision and the necessary supplies.  Milicent then organized a group of volunteers from AVODAH, the Jewish Service Corp. 

Milicent planned the project from beginning to end, making sure to buy and move all of the supplies, coordinate with the service corps, and  teach painting skills to the volunteers. Before beginning the project, Milicent and the volunteers met with the residents at Open Arms Housing so they could choose the new paint color for their home. Milicent then purchased the paint and painting supplies, and she and the other volunteers brightened the women’s home through a coat of beautiful new paint.

Lessons Learned

It did not take long for Milicent to be reminded that something is always bound to go wrong, despite close planning! In this instance, she arrived at the residence to discover that the wrong color and kind of paint had been purchased. Luckily, there was time to immediately fix the situation before the volunteers arrived and the project began. She reminds others of the importance of keeping a positive attitude in the face of mishaps, and focusing on how to quickly correct the error.


Due to the generous support of the organizations involved, Milicent did not have to carry out any fundraising in order to cover the costs related to this project. Behrend Builders sponsored this project and provided all of the painting materials, including rollers, trays, brushes, paper, trash bags and rags. Open Arms Housing provided the paint.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2014

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