EHARP Provides Ramps for People in Need

When most people think of Habitat for Humanity they think of affordable homes built for deserving families. There is a reason for this; the homeownership program is the reason Habitat exists. Habitat is dedicated to provide simple, decent, affordable housing to hard-working families in the Athens Area. But what happens to the families who already have a house but still have a need?

That’s where Athens Habitat steps up to work in small ways that make a big difference.

One of their programs, the Emergency Handicap Access Ramp Program, or EHARP for short, is designed to do just that.

“We started this program when we realized that folks didn’t always need new homes but needed to change their existing homes that had accessibility issues” says Executive Director Spencer Frye.

The Athens Area Habitat for Humanity EHARP program was started in 2006. It is the result of a partnership with HED and the Multiple Choices for Independent Living. Human & Economic Development (HED) utilizes their funds for housing and community development activities in Athens-Clarke County.

Together, with HED and Multiple Choices for Independent Living, Habitat builds ramps for owners with accessibility issues. These ramps help low-income families with physically disabled individuals to improve their quality of life.

Alissa, a Habitat homeowner and an EHARP recipient says “It is very convenient because my mom is very sick. She is in a wheelchair and can no longer use the stairs. We are very grateful for how quickly Habitat was able to install the ramp.”

Alissa is one of the two Athenians that Habitat has built a ramp for in the past month.

When screening families, Habitat verifies that household income falls below 80% of the area median income. Habitat also confirms home ownership and does a site check.

Habitat’s services are mostly utilized by elder citizens likely to have fixed incomes and less likely to be able to afford a ramp from the private sector. A privately contracted ramp can cost anywhere from $1500 to $3000. At Habitat, with the help of their construction staff and volunteers, they can keep costs down as low as $500 to $1000.

The EHARP program began with complete funding from HED but, because of cuts in funding, Habitat has had to resort to other methods of funding to make these ramps a reality. Habitat is fortunate enough to be able to use our very own ReStore to bridge the gap in resources. The ReStore is the Habitat thrift store, which receives new and used home furnishings and sells them at up to 90% of retail cost. The ReStore takes in a wide variety of furniture, building supplies, home décor, appliances, books, clothing and so much more. By repurposing and reselling the materials they receive, they are able to fund many projects that are dedicated to improving Athens.

“Every dollar we earn from the donations goes directly back into the community. We make it so your used furniture and items can literally build a brand new home for a family,” says Spencer Frye.

Not only does the ReStore provide funds for Habitat projects, but the ReStore also provides building materials. Habitat builds approximately 10 to 20 ramps a year; without the ReStore, this program, and many others like it, would not exist.