Weatherization Plus Health Program Results in Significant Change for Hillyard Resident

Katrina McGinnis grew up on the sunny, Northern California coast. “We ate out of the ocean, had no TV, and Mother Nature was our playground,” Katrina shared with me as we visited at her newly improved home. Having lived as a free spirit for most of her life, Katrina left “paradise” 18 years ago and moved to Spokane to grow. Even though it was a step she was excited to take, it took a long time for her to call Spokane home. Eight years ago, Katrina decided it was time to dig her roots deeper into Spokane and purchased a house in a neighborhood she could afford. It wasn’t easy being a single mom with two teenagers, but her job as a nurse made things doable. The three of them were able to settle in and work on improving their 1909 home.

Unfortunately, many years spent struggling with an oftentimes debilitating kidney disease caught up with Katrina. After her 10th surgery to help correct the ongoing health problem, Katrina opted to have the kidney removed. With the lengthy recovery and the tax to her health that nursing placed on her, Katrina had to quit her job as a nurse and focus on getting well. Katrina’s son stepped in and held down two jobs in order to help provide while he remained at home. They were able to keep up with the household bills, but not improve on the 110 year old home.

With her health in question, the asthma challenges of her daughter on her mind, and the limited income of the household when her son moved into his own home, Katrina contacted SNAP to see if there was some way we could help. With SNAP’s Weatherization Plus Health program, we were able to reach out and give the assistance Katrina and her family needed. During the initial inspection of the home, it was learned that the house had been nicknamed “the bird house” by the neighborhood due to the birds that were able to fly in under the eaves and nest inside the home. “There were times a bird would just come flying through the house!” Katrina expressed. As if assault from the air wasn’t bad enough, mice were getting in through holes in the basement walls where the pipes come into the house. In the kitchen, the gas stove was tested and the CO2 levels were high, creating an unhealthy environment every time the family cooked a meal. The home was lacking insulation, had old carpets that created an unhealthy breathing environment for Katrina’s asthmatic daughter, the furnace was old and highly inefficient, a single paned window in the pantry was insufficient for ventilation, and the front door handle was hanging off, creating a security issue.

SNAP was able to address all of the health and safety issues with the majority of the funding coming from the Washington State Housing Trust Fund. Boards were strategically installed along the eaves to keep the birds from nesting, and the holes in the basement were sealed against the mice.  A vent was installed above the stove that completely changed the toxicity of the kitchen. Dangerous CO2 became a thing of the past. A vinyl window replaced the old single-paned, non-working one in the pantry and the consistent temperature now keeps food from spoiling. The vents were cleaned (which had never been done), a fan with a humidity sensor was installed in the bathroom, and vinyl flooring replaced the old dust-filled carpet on the stairs and in her daughter’s attic bedroom. As well, SNAP added attic access above the bedroom in order to blow in insulation for better climate control. CO2 and smoke detectors were installed for safety. The best item to be installed was the high-efficiency furnace, made possible with a grant from Avista. “It was a biggie,” Katrina exclaimed to me as we toured all the changes to her home. Katrina was already seeing energy savings as her bills had been cut in half by the improvements SNAP was able to make. And she no longer had to share her home with birds and mice! “I haven’t seen a single mouse or bird inside since SNAP sealed everything up,” Katrina expressed.

SNAP’s assistance was a life changer for Katrina and her daughter. The Conservation-Education provided by assessor Linda when she first visited Katrina’s home, “made such a difference,” Katrina shared. “We now keep our small appliances unplugged when not in use. Every small bit of energy-saving helps.” As I headed out the door, utilizing the new door knob SNAP installed, Katrina was also planning to head outside for her “1st sun in 3 years” due to all the health issues she’d been dealing with. Things for Katrina are definitely looking up with her improved health and the changes SNAP was able to make in her living environment. Katrina gratefully summed up her experience, “I felt the heaviness in the air lift after the work was done. SNAP made this home.”