Cal Boroughs of “Rebuilding Together Chattanooga” has lived in the St. Elmo neighborhood for decades, and has seen it go from a place to avoid to one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Chattanooga. But even as St. Elmo becomes more and more gentrified, there are still less-wealthy homeowners who need assistance.
“It’s an organization who wants to help homeowners in Chattanooga by preparing homes, revitalizing communities and rebuilding lives," said Rev. Burroughs. He said the group has affiliates throughout the country.
In order to help homeowners in St. Elmo (and eventually the entirety of Chattanooga), the organization does not have a singular approach to alleviating problems. Instead, Rebuilding has what Rev. Boroughs called a “two pronged approach.”
“We want to provide needed repairs to low-income homes,” said the longtime St. Elmo Presbyterian pastor on the first prong. “This is not rehabilitation, we are just doing needed repairs. We’re following a checklist of how to have a safe and healthy home.”
The other prong of Rebuilding Chattanooga’s plan is to utilize volunteers from the St. Elmo area to rebuild their own neighborhood. Mr. Boroughs said there are limits to what kinds of things the volunteers can do.
“The second prong is to use volunteers to do it,” he said. “We want to help them learn how to be neighbors. So help neighbors help neighbors. However, we can’t put volunteers doing electrical, roofing, or plumbing.”
Rev. Boroughs brought up two examples, one was his neighbor, and the other was a pair of elderly sisters in their 90s and neither in possession of homeowners insurance. While other places were unwilling to help uninsured sisters patch up their house, Rebuilding Together picked up the slack.
“My next door neighbor was a fellow named Ken who grew up in St. Elmo,” said Rev. Boroughs to members of the Kiwanis Club. “He was bipolar and bankrupt, and his house was falling apart, and he had no insurance. I spent hours on the phone trying to get help for him, and nobody would because of restrictions.”
“If you have no homeowners insurance and are low income, there is no agency that will help you,” said the speaker. “We understand the reason for that, but we at Rebuilding Together know that we need to fill that gap. So for those elderly sisters, we raised money and contributed for getting the tree off the roof.”
While Rebuilding Together is focused on the St. Elmo neighborhood at this time, Rev. Boroughs said the organization has big plans for the future, saying, “Last week I had to get an application for a community development block grant. We’re doing all of this stuff as volunteers, but we think this is important. I want to build a bigger organization that we can move out into Chattanooga.”
According to Rebuild Together Chattanooga’s website, “Rebuilding Together Chattanooga’s mission is: Repairing homes ~ Revitalizing communities ~ Rebuilding lives. We believe every person should be given the opportunity to live, learn, work, thrive, and age in a safe and healthy place. Utilizing local volunteers, Rebuilding Together Chattanooga provides meaningful home improvements and essential repairs for low-income homeowners in Chattanooga.”