Habitat Build 2008 First Day – Walls Go Up

Saturday, May 10 was the official start of the Presbyterian Coalition, Cobb Habitat for Humanity build in 2008.  This is the third article in this series, the first covering the Traditional Dinner on the Slab which includes a slide show of 25 pictures and introduces the future homeowner, Nicole Combs and her son Elijah.   The second article is the first in a series of a sort of Habitat Tutorial, Preparation for Build which covers some of the intense preparation that goes on behind the scenes before the volunteers show up.  I say “sort of” because I am not an expert, but willing to discuss the various Jobs assigned to me and/or learned over the years.  Hopefully most of it is close to right.

This article covers the first day the volunteers show up, and includes a slide show for the entire day with 115 photos, almost all including the volunteers.  My photo is hopefully the only one not included, as I am behind the camera.  To see the slide show of 115 pictures click here or on any picture below!

23 AM

This is the start of work, 8:23 AM.  Safety instructions and a pep talk have already been given by our SPM (Site Project Manager), Jeff Vanderlip.   That’s Jeff in the middle of the site with the orange shirt and big floppy hat.  The various top and bottom plates are still tacked together and strewn hap-hazardly all over the site.

The top and bottom plates are numbered and well marked so it doesn’t matter what order the walls are built or if anyone knows exactly what they are building.  Grab a set, pull it apart, remove the tack nails, lay them about 8 feet apart and start adding studs, T’s, doors and windows.   See the tutorial for good examples.

A good start

A half hour later, the walls are well on their way.  many of them are completed, including the addition of a sill seal foam tape (blue) on the bottom plate.   Some of the build is taking place in the driveway of the house in the background.   Often we take to the street.  To do a good job we do need a flat area so the components line up properly.  

Measure it twice

Measure it twice, cut once!   The gentleman on the left is our “cut man” for the day.  The one on the right is “Pretty Boy” Miller, also known as “9 fingers”.   He is our grand master of carpenters and a super-volunteer.

Getting Copies

The pictures shown here and in the slide show do not have the resolution you can get if you download them from the Flikr site.   Go to the slide show and click on the link at the top left of the slide show to get to the full set at high resolution, or click on any picture in the slide show and then click on View Main Page.  Once there, you can click on the button above the picture “All Sizes”.   It will open in the large size, but you can download any picture in any size free, or can order prints through the site that will be delivered in about an hour to your nearest Target store.  It’s not obvious how to get to the Target option. First put a print in your shopping cart.  When ready for checkout, you can send your prints to Target for printing for about 15 cents per copy or have them mailed to your home. 

In addition, you can go to “Zassle” and have T-shirts, coffee mugs etc. made with your favorite print.  Enjoy.  Below are selected prints but only a small sample of what is available for free download.

First Wall

First Wall

Nicole installs the first wall to go up!  This is always a photo opportunity and can’t be missed.  There are several other shots of this in the slide show.  The time is 9:09 AM, barely 46 minutes after we started!  The all important wall brace is being wrestled into place on the far left.   All the walls are braced by long 2×4’s to hold the walls vertical and to make sure they don’t get pushed over by loose walls stacked against them or a tired soul leaning heavily in the wrong place.  Long stakes are driven into the ground and the brace is poked through the top of a window or doorway, if available, and nailed at each end when the wall is perfectly vertical.

Second Wall

The second wall.  It includes a window unit and a couple of T’s.  This is the back of the house and includes the utility room and a bedroom.   Notice the brace at the left.  Another is being readied off camera for this wall.  There was no window or door in the first wall so the brace is through the wall itself.  The reason for using window and doors for the braces is so that later much of the outside sheathing can proceed without removing the braces.   

Neat Suspenders

Neat Suspenders. 

Time for a break

Time for a break.  Picture windows make good seats.   Don’t worry, I have front views of all these people in the slide show, including this one.  Hmmm, more suspenders.

Time for a break - another view 

OK, these oldtimer’s deserve more respect.  They are both Gray Ghosts and SPM’s as well.  The Gray Ghosts are generally expert carpenters and woodworkers that have retired but like to stay busy helping the Habitat cause move along.  When things don’t go right or don’t get finished, the SPM puts in a request for Gray Ghost help.  They slip in after the volunteers are gone, review the work and fix any problems or complete any incomplete work so that the job stays on schedule.  The volunteers may notice that someone finished the roof or fixed a window or completed a porch and wonder who did it.  The answer is always “a gray ghost”.  Unsung heroes to me.  There is no telling how many houses they have led and how many more they have worked on as ghosts.

Debbie Found Her Job

Hmm.  Looks like Debbie found her job!    Debbie is also an SPM and has already completed her house on this same street.  She has lead many houses for her local high school and now that she is retired, continues on.

Everybody's busy

Every body is busy. Except for me, of course.  I put the camera down from time to time to pick up my hammer, but to tell the truth, at my age, I can’t do that much anymore.   I did plaster a few OSB walls with nails pretty well however.  I’m trying to document the progress with the intention of keeping a working tutorial of the build.   Wish me luck.

Board Members

I believe the 5 people nearest the center of this picture are all board members or past members of the Presbyterian Coalition, 6 counting the guy behind the camera.  There are many more on the site today.  Everybody works.

Food on the way

Food on the way.  Hamburgers and Hot Dogs.   Each week a church has volunteered to fix the meal and serve drinks.   The assigned church also provides the opening prayer and the food blessing and often a devotional at lunch time.  First Presbyterian always provides the meal on the first day of build and Macland Presbyterian provides the meal for the last build day.   Often the meals are donated by local restaurants.  For example sometimes Papa John’s will provide free pizza dinners or perhaps Williams Brothers Bar-B-Que or Subway.   Others are home cooked or maybe sandwiches.  It doesn’t matter, we are so hungry you could serve worn out shoe leather and no one would complain.

Insulating the T's

This young lady is cutting insulation into strips to insulate the T’s.  All of the outside walls must be insulated and no exceptions are made for small gaps.  You may be able to see an insulted T in the far wall above her head.  The T’s and corner posts must be insulated now because the OSB sheathing will cover much of it before the day is over.   Another area to be insulated early will be the areas behind the tub enclosure before the tub goes in.   Insulation can be a problem if the various inspections delay us from getting other things done.  So very often a special day is set aside for a midweek day to insulate the walls.  It has to be done after the house is dried in and plumbing and electrical done,  but before the drywall goes up.

Our leader

This is our leader, our SPM.  Jeff Vanderlip, a tireless worker and hard task master.  Always urging us to “have fun” then assigns us the most dreadful tasks.

Terry cutting a window opening

This picture may look a little fuzzy but that is sawdust sprinkling down in front of Terry Barton’s face.  It is particularly fine sawdust because he is using a metal cutting blade to cut a window opening – it was all he could find.  I had a proper blade in my truck as did probably 5 others.   Terry is our finance officer and past president of the Coalition.   He is also a Master Gardner and does genetic family research on the side (or something like that).  Anyway he can tell you if you are related to Napoleon or the guy you thought was a great great grand daddy but you’re not certain.

Checking aleignment

Here the house frame is being straightened and aligned with the aid of a couple of blocks of wood and a tight string.  The block he is holding is positioned behind the string while others move braces inside the wall to bring the wall into perfect alignment.   The technique is to put blocks at each end of the top of the wall, tightly stretch a string between them and adjust the wall to a third block that is moved between the wall and the string.    The walls are virtually complete.

   Special selection

I was asked to capture these two together and just at that moment, one tried to get away.

There are about a hundred more pictures on the slide show and I’ve sort of randomly selected a few representative shots here.  There is another slide show coming up as part of the continuing tutorial if anyone is interested in that.  You would be amazed how many people visited last year’s pictures doing searches on construction such as “Hardi Plank” or “roofing” or “siding” or “framing”.  

Job Well Done

Completed walls

Well, here is the last picture for the  day.   The time is 3:10 PM and everybody is gone, some 7 hours after the official start of the day.   The house is sheathed, openings cut, all the walls are up and perfectly aligned, the porch beam is installed and the house is completely ready for the roof trusses that will go up next Saturday.   Incidentally, the pole at the end of the house is a safety pole to hold the first roof truss as it goes up and prevent it from toppling over.  The pole will remain in place until all the trusses are up and the roof completely braced and stable.   There is a catwalk used for safety purposes installed over the living room that I’ve not shown.  It will be in the tutorial and will come down after the trusses are in.  Safety is much more important than finishing the house.

Click here or on any picture for the slide show and for access to the full sets of pictures for free downloads or for ordering prints.

Enjoy,

Oldtimer

  

Habitat Tutorial – Preparation for Build

Prepartion for build

Layout on the Saturday before the first day of volunteer build.

Caution, take with a grain of salt.  This is from the experience of one volunteer, certainly not an expert and I will make errors.  Keep in mind also that other Habitat leaders may do things entirely different.    If you are looking for slide shows for the 2008 build, start with Dinner on the Slab.

Preparation for build could go all the way back to when Cobb Habitat began site selection through when the concrete or foundations are poured, street and utility construction and other site preparation.   I’m not going that far!  I have also left off details of squaring the slab which involves a careful analysis of the slab dimensions vs the house dimensions and then snapping lines that are perfectly perpendicular in all directions, matching the slab to the plans as best as possible. If the slab is perfectly rectangular and sized correctly, this is a no-brainer. 

Often the slab is not poured perfectly and there are edges that are bowed, edges that dip or turn out, and corners that are not square.  In addition, the middle of the slab can be bowed up (the usual case) or bowed down with resulting puddles after a rain to deal with.    All of these things must be dealt with by adjustments to the layout to accomodate the anomalies – the concrete is poured and hard, the plumbing is where it is, and the volunteers will show up next week, and nothing is going to be ripped up and repoured.  

This tutorial is, instead, a brief summary of the steps that the Site Project Manager (SPM) goes through with a few other volunteers to get the site ready for the volunteers first day of build.  I am also omitting the extra work necessary to build a floor deck in the situation of a house with a crawl space.  This year we are building on a slab withouth a crawl space, so that is all you get.

The previous Saturday several members of our group (The SPM, crew leaders and other invitees) met at the site and measured, “squared”, and “laid out: the site, meaning they checked the foundation and defined the outline of the home and all the interior walls.  This involves laying out every window, door and wall section and outlining them with chalk lines.  Corrections are made with different colored chalk and the final layout receives a clear waterproof spray in case of rain.

There were several problems to be overcome caused by the plumbers miscalculations that put the bathroom 2 feet into the living room and the utility plumbing outside the designated walls in several areas.   Our future homeowner, Nicole was on site and agreed to a bigger closet and a smaller living room and all the adjustments were made to her satisfaction. 

Unfortunately it rained in the middle of the layout, washing much of the markings away.  Since the team ran out of chalk colors (red blue and green) the final outline was done mostly in pencil.   That works too, if you have enough pencils as they wear quickly on concrete.

2×4 pressure treated boards are cut for each wall section to exactly fit the walls (ignoring door openings) and matching “white wood” (untreated) 2×4 boards are made for each one and tacked together in pairs.  The pressure treated boards go on the concrete and the white boards will go on the top of the walls.   Each board is numbered at each end and matching numbers are placed on the concrete between the drawn lines.   There are drawings below to illustrate all this.

The location of all wall studs are outlined on the edges of the two boards and “X” marks placed in the outlines.  The location of Jack studs (shorter studs inside of door and window frames) are marked with “J”. Doors, Windows and T’s and Ladder headers are also marked.   T’s are located at points where walls intersect.  Door types (left hand, right hand, width) and Window sizes are marked on the wall plates. 

The two boards representing a wall (or section of a longer wall) are then placed back into the outline and everything checked again against the print.  Each board has all the markings necessary for a group of volunteers to build that wall in a matter of a couple of minutes without any concern for where that wall will end up.  If they follow the markings the wall will have studs, the proper size door and/or window and all connecting T’s for any intersecting walls.  Any allowances for plumbing (such as slots or notches for pipes) will also be marked. 

In addition, the team builds all the “T’s, door frames, window frames and corners and stack them in a pile.

Marked top and bottom Plates

Here is a fictitious example of a set of plates that have been tacked together and marked.   Normally there is also a wall number on each end.  I’ve omitted that.   The pressure treated board goes next to the concrete on top of a foam strip (“Sill Seal”) that helps seal out moisture and air.   Door openings are cut away later.  X is marked for studs, J for Jacks, T’s are marked (see markings near right end above) and have an arrow on the plate to show which way it is to be oriented.  The size of the door or window is marked on the plates as well.

Corners and T's

These are a few of the components usually prepared before the volunteers show up.  They are build by volunteers during the layout day if they have time, and often finished by the “Gray Ghosts” if they don’t.  Sometimes a team of volunteers build them on the first day of build.  We like to have them ready beforehand if possible to speed things up.

Corners and T’s are built exactly the same except for the orientation of the boards between them.  Corners have the boards wide side to wide side between two studs.  T’s have them positioned narrow side to wide side as shown in the middle illustration.  Plumbing T’s need to be wider so the boards are turned lengthwise (7” long) and doubled up to give them more spacing.   The purpose of the T’s is to give intersecting walls a place to be nailed to. Plumbing T’s need extra space for vents and piping.

The T’s are inserted in a wall and then an intersecting wall fits against the wide part of the spacers and nailed from the back side.   Corner posts and T’s that are in outside walls are insulated.  There is an illustartion near the bottom of an assembled wall with a T.

Door Headers

These are two types of door headers, interior and exterior.  The widths of the interior doors vary greatly.   The headers for 3′ exterior doors are 1/2 inch longer than for 3′ interior doors.    The jacks are often left out of the sets made beforehand.   The doors are set in place in the walls, the walls nailed to the concrete and the opening cut with a Skill saw (carefully set to not ruin the blade) or a “saws-all”.   Leaving the jacks out allow a Skill saw to make the cut using the 1.5 inch guide on the saw.  If the jacks are in place, the saws-all does a good job of making the cut.   Ladder doors get their name from the series of “cripples” that form a ladder like shape.  Exterior doors are always 2 each 2×10 boards with a 1/2 inch plywood spacer between them.  The cripples are often inserted after the walls go up so that they can be matched to the nearest stud placement and to fit drywall or exterior sheathing.   Also, you may notice from the “live” pictures that come in the next tutorial, all the darkened wood in the ladder illustration is sometimes left out in the initial assembly and the top bar omitted entirely so the cripples extend to the top plate of the house frame. 

typical window header

This is a typical window header, often prepared ahead of time whenever possible.  The cripples are usually left off, measured and added after the walls are up and located such that they fall on 16″ centers to match the drywall or exterior sheathing after the wall goes in.  There are usually 3 or 4 sizes of windows in a typical Habitat house.  There is usually a “picture window” size, a shorter kitchen window for over the sink, and then the bedroom and side windows.  sometimes there may be another size for some special purpose, perhaps for a bathroom or next to a deck.

 assembled wall

Here is an assembled “fictitious wall” showing a match up of the plates and the assembled wall section.  Wall sections are butted together for longer walls and the top plates joined by an overlaping cap plate.  The end of an intersecting wall buts up to the near side of a T (in this case the side showing) and the nails are hammered in from the open back side.  Cap plates run from the intersecting wall and cross over to the continuing wall so that they are locked together.  Volunteers can assemble this wall in 2 or 3 minutes or someone that has never held a hammer may delay it for 4 or 5 minutes.  We wait for him/her and give much encouragement and help.  The idea is to have fun.  We are not on a real schedule.

When the volunteers show up, they are instructed to grab the tacked-together plates, separate them and start inserting studs, T’s, window and door units.  It takes all of 2 minutes for the whole slab to be covered with walls under construction.  Volunteers help each other with the more experienced crew leaders make final judgements.  The SPM usually resolves major problems quickly – such as a wall that intersects a door or a window where a door belongs, or a room with no door.  It happens.  The worst case is for windows and doors that arrive that are the wrong size for the frames that were built to the plan.  Tear out and redo is often the solution.

Completed walls are stacked outside on the dirt until they are all finished.  Then the walls for the exterior start to go up.  The first wall stops everything as everybody gathers for the photo-op.   Nicole was photographed driving in the final nail and helping position the wall.    Then the other walls were carried onto the site in an order designed to get them all into place without having to shove any over the top of a wall.   One was anyway.

Our volunteers started active work about 8:30 AM after prayers and safety instructions.  By 11:30 all the walls were up and lunch was served (hamburgers and hotdogs grilled on-site). 

By 3 PM all the walls had been sheaths and the frame squared and prepared for the A frames and roof, including the porch beams.

I’ll show pictures of all the various parts going into place in my next article – first day of build.

Next:  Build Day 1 – Walls go UP!

The next article will have pictures and slide show for the first day of build – the day the walls go up.  Watch for it here.

Oldtimer 

 

Habitat for Humanity – 2008 Dinner on the Slab

Friday night we had our traditional Dinner on the Slab with our Future Homeowner and her family.  

(If you just want to see the pictures, click any picture for a slide show and link to pictures you can copy.)

First let me explain what this is all about.  This blog is pretty much dedicated to the homeless, particularly homeless veterans and youth.  But not completely, as each year I take some time off to work on a Habitat for Humanity home and post a progress report with slideshows, tutorial and pictures of the events.   I’ll continue to add articles on homeless as I go along.   You can access the articles by category, using the links in the header or the tags and categories to find the topics you are interested in.  In general, you can find all Habitat for Humanity Articles here, all Homeless Veterans Articles here, All PSTD articles here, and all Homeless Youth Article here.  The links above and to the right allow you to also find my most popular articles.   When this is all done, you can find the 2008 Habitat Build here, or look at it on a running basis throughout the build.

This one is the first of a series of about a dozen articles on our current build.  It will carry you from the day before we start to build (todays article) all the way through the dedication ceremony and house warming.  If I do everything as planned, you will also get a “how to build a Habitat House Tutorial”.   To be taken with a grain of salt as I am certainly not an expert, but reporting what I experience and the various jobs I take on during the build.

Background

Here is a little background.  I am a member of Macland Prebyterian Church which is in return a member of the Presbyterian Coalition, Cobb Habitat for Humanity and I am their representative, a member of the board.    The Coalition is composed of  Presbyterian Churches in Cobb County, Georgia that raise money to sponsor one or two houses in our county each year.  We raise the money, about $55,000 to pay for the lot and any undonated materials.  We also build the house(s) and fund a number of houses in Kenya each year.    After Hurricane Dennis we also helped Cobb Disaster Recovery in rebuilding damaged homes in Cobb.

This year we will build one house in Cobb County, Georgia (our 22d house in Cobb so far) and seven in Kenya (total 32 in Kenya)!

Nicole Combs

Nicole Combs, Future Homeowner stands on the site of her new home

(Click on any picture to start slide show)

Elijah

This wonderful smiling face belongs to Elijah, Nicole’s son.  Some of the framing can be seen behind him

The future homeowner, Nicole Combs has a son Elijah, 7.  She will work on the house with our volunteers to get the house built.   Homeowners come up with a down payment, are required to work on other houses as well as  their own for some 200 hours of “sweat equity”.   For us, it is mission work, Christ’s command: help the needy!

The homeowner will actually sign a contract to buy the house at a greatly reduced price (compared to the appraised value)  and then make interest-free monthly payments until it is paid for.  Cobb Habitat for Humanity takes care of selecting the homeowners, purchasing the land and preparing the streets and lots prior to the volunteers (that’s us) coming in.  That includes getting either the concrete poured if it is to be built on a concrete floor,  or building a  block foundation if not.  In the latter case, a few people, men and women from our group go out and frame and deck the floor prior to the volunteers arriving.  

Schedule:  The build dates are Saturdays May 10, 17, 31 and June 14.   Then we go into blitz week where volunteers work all week to finish the house and landscaping June 16 through 21.  (We have skipped an extra weekend this year due to Memorial Day weekend.)

Location:  The site is located in the same subdivision as last year, but in the second phase of the development.  Mableton, Hillcrest Subdivision.  Take Barrett/East West Connector to Floyd Road, turn right, follow and continue as it changes to Mableton Parkway, turn right on South Gordon Road, then left on Hillcrest.  Look for a new subdivision on the left.about 8/10 mile from South Gordon Road.   About a 20 minute drive from our church.

Youth Take Notice:: The minimum age for the first four days is 16, 14 after that. (blitz week)   All young folks, guys and gals are all welcome if you meet the age requirements.   Drag your parents along!

 Dinner on the Slab

The Slab

Dinner on the Slab

Click on any picture or HERE for Slide Show

Dinner on the slab means bring a covered dish, utinsels to serve the dish and your own chair.  Anyone that wants to come are welcome.   We invite the future homeowner and their family and friends. 

Cobb Habitat has already poured the concrete and it is hardened and ready to build, so all we have to do is clear out an area big enough to set up tables and chairs.   There was chicken, bar-b-que, various salads and deserts, water, tea and soft drinks.  Also a few well chosen wines (OK by Presbyterian standards).

For most of us, this is our first opportunity to meet the new homeowner and family.   Nicole is going to be a joy to work with.  Elijah is very bright, energetic, and inquiring, wants to know everything that is going on.  

Copies of Pictures

To get copies of any picture, click on the slide show and look above the slide show and you wiil find a link to the group of pictues (“back to Habitat 2008 set”).    Or click on any picture during the slide show and it will stop and allow you to select that picture (View Main Page).   When you see a picture you like and you have it in your sights, look for a link above for a button that says all sizes.  From there you can choose vearious sizes including a very large one.   When you have the size you want, you can click download for a free copy.  Copy as many as you want.    Or here is a  direct link to the set.  Click on any picture for a larger view and copy insturctions.  Enjoy

Oldtimer

 

 

 

Invisible Wounds of War Report Available for Download

The Rand Corp. recently released a 499 page report titled “Invisible Wounds of War”.   This report was briefly summarized by numerous news articles and Internet reports, including my previous article. 

I’m happy to say that the entire report is available for free download online, or you can purchase a hard copy for $50 from the Rand Corporation through their online bookstore (link below).

Here is the link to the downloadable report which has details not reported elsewhere.  I strongly urge you to at least scan the entire report.   The subtitle is:

Psychological and Cognitive Injuries,

Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery

 

 

TERRI TANIELIAN AND LISA H.  JAYCOX, EDITORS

 

 

Download here   (2.9 mb full report)

or here  (200KB summary).

You can find the Rand Bookstore with these links here  

Oldtimer

  

 

20% of Iraq, Afghanistan Soldiers Have Depression or PTSD

Veteranstoday.com

Half of Depression and PTSD affected troops untreated

A study published by the Rand Corporation shows that of the 300,000 troops affected by mental disorders of depression or PTSDless than half have been treated.   Yes, that is 150,000 untreated heroes on active dury or recently released to the streets without proper treatment according to this independent study.

Picture from Veterans Today site.  Find it Here

The sad news continues…  About one in five, about 20%, of our Iraq and Afghanistan active dury and veterans suffer from depression or PTSD.

The Rand study says that too many soldiers and Marines are still slipping through the cracks since the symptoms of depression and PTSD can appear months after an incident, and many mental problems that appear later may never be caught, the study said.

The RAND study interviewed 1,965 current and former service members and asked them how many had suffered from PTSD within the previous 30 days and suffered from depression within the previous two weeks.

  • “We have tried to generate this estimate across the entire deployed population,” said Terri Tanielian, one of the study’s authors. “We are looking at the scope of the problem now among the population back in the United States.”

The study shows that 19.5% of veterans had received a concussion or other traumatic brain injury during their combat tour.    The study found that some service members actively avoid a diagnosis of a mental health problem due to a fear of negative consequences of such a diagnosis.    The worry is that co-workers would have less confidence in them after a diagnosis and thus impact their career.

  • “When we asked folks what was limiting them from getting the help that they need, among the top barriers that were reported were really negative career repercussions,” Tanielian said.

Please read the rest of this article (paraphrased above) here:  Veterans Today.

You can get a different take at Medical News Today.  They report that 30% of our soldiers that are on their third or fourth tour have expressed emotional illnesses as gleaned from 2295 anonymous responses to the survey (11.9 % first tour soldiers, 18.5% second tour, 27.2% third tour).

And from the Associated Press at the Atlanta Journal Constitution website.

I encourage you to write the candidates at every government level and all of our current congressmen to encourage them to show their support by increasing the help for these wonderful men and women that have served our country.  Let’s serve them now!

Help our Heroes!

Housewarming for Al

Housewarming! 

For Al !!

Al Jordan, our homeless veteran friend moved into veteran’s transitional housing on April 1, 2008.  He is still excited.   Pat Shankle of Georgia Home Staging with the help of husband Scott and friends staged his new apartment.  That means she selected the furnishings from the warehouse of MUST Ministries, added other stuff such as pictures, decorations, pillows, kitchen and dining room stuff and then professionally decorated the entire apartment – living room, bedroom, kitchen and dining room.   Pat does this for a living, normally staging houses for sale in order to make them more attractive, leading to quicker sale.   She also staged a home for our last Habitat homeowner, Joi.  Pat has said she is negotiating with MUST to stage a number of additional apartments as part of her homeless ministry.  Admire her work in the following pictures.

Als Apartment entry

Entry to Al’s new apartment.

Some of Als friends from our church gave him a housewarming dinner last night (April 3).   It was a great event for Al and his new housemate, Danny.  

Danny, Pat, Al

Danny McDaniel, Pat Shankle, Al Jordan

The food was catered by our Wednesday night dinner food experts.  It was GREAT eating.

Shrimp!  Chicken was also avialable

Shrimp!  Bacon and green beans.  Chicken was also available.  Desert consisted of ice cream with hot fudge.

Here are a few pictures of Als apartment taken while he gave us the grand tour:

Als Bedroom

Als Bedroom

Car tag

Prized car tag in window! for when he can afford a car.  Link to Macland Presbyterian

Bedroom

Another view of Al’s bedroom. 

Kitchen

Kitchen.  The fridge is opposite the stove.  Yes that is a coffee grinder in the far left corner and bags of Starbucks (gifts) on the shelf.

Dining room

Dining nook and lighting

Now to the gifts and people.  Al’s guests came with gifts ranging from DVD players to $50 gift cards and more than a few misty moments as Al opened them and read the cards.   Here are a few photos:

Ladies and Al

As ususal, all the ladies sat on one side of the room and the gents on the other.  And yes, Al is working with a hankie at the moment.

Cross

Admiring the Cross

Al with Pastor Ray Jones III

Our Pastor, Ray Jones III with Al. 

Towels

More gifts, in this case towels and other bathroom supplies

Scott Shankle

Pat’s husband Scott.

Jeff Staka

Jeff Straka.   You may remember him from our meeting with the Police Chief in an earlier blog.

I think we were all as pleased as Jeff appears to be in this photo with the outcome of our first venture into the homeless world.    Al and Danny seemed pleased too.   Although there are not many pictures of Danny here, he was not left out of the festivities and joined in our meal and prayers as well as shared in the joy of the moment for Al.

Danny and Al seem to be very comfortable house mates and will get along well together.  Danny, also a veteran in the program, has a car and has offered to drive Al to our Wednesday night dinner and to Church.  Looks like we have made a new friend there as well.  Danny’s is a different story where he once was married to the daughter of one of the biggest landowners in this area and now struggling to climb out of homelessness.

We also met a bear of a man, Jon who came in to check the refrigerator.  He is also a veteran, lives on the property and maintains/repairs anything that needs fixing.  This is a 20 unit complex entirely devoted to transitional housing for homeless veterans.   With two men to a unit, 40 veterans are served.  Jon said he is enrolled in the STEP program.   Nether Danny nor Al are enrolled in treatment programs, though they are required to find and keep jobs and eventually work their way out of the housing.

Part of the challange is this:  The entire complex is surrounded by woods habitated by other homeless men, somewhat envious of their neighbors.   The area is a high crime area including drugs.   Part of Jon’s job is to keep the area clear of anyone not residents of the complex.   It seems to be working.  I found the complex clean and nicely kept. 

I was well pleased with the housing situation.   This complex is funded by HUD and run by MUST ministries with grants from HUD.   Something just feels right about this situation.

Slide Show

Here is a slideshow with includes all of the pictures taken by me at the dinner, 47 in all.  Enjoy

Oldtimer

Good News – Ask the right question!

Ask the right question. 

 Al was frustrated.  We were frustrated, even his case manager at MUST was frustrated.  The new transitional housing program was due to start April 1 but to get in, Al needed to prove his eligibility and he needed his DD-14.  The deadline was just a few days away.   It was already March 26.   He had his application in for months.  He had his request for his DD-14 copy in for months.  Nothing was happening.  His case manager had even faxed in a copy of the application papers.   No response.   It looked pretty bleak as nothing was happening at the VA.

No DD-14 on the way and no good reason why.  I don’t know the details other than this:  Al said he had been conferencing with his case manager on Wednesday and they were both lamenting that nothing seemed to be working.  Then Al happened to mention that he has a birthday coming up in a few months and he “needed to get his VA drivers license renewed”.   Just a simple off-the-wall comment to pass the time.

The case manager said something like:  “WHAT did you just say?!!!… You have a VA drivers license?… Let me see it!”  “This is all you need for proof… you are in!”.

It turns out that no one had asked the right question.  

You don’t get a veterans driver’s license without a DD-14  and it requires a certificate of eligibility from the VA to get the licence.  The existence of the driver’s license was all that has been needed all along.  Now Al is going into transitional housing on April 1.  It was an alert case manager that finally saved the day.  It would have been easy to not notice the remark.  None of us trying to help him knew.  No one at the VA asked whether he had a veterans driver’s license.   Al didn’t know it would suffice.   Only the alert case manager caught the significance.   Thank you Michael Laird of MUST ministries.  

Al once had his separation papers and has since lost them.  That happens to homeless veterans a lot.    He qualified for his veteran’s drivers license some time ago and has maintained it current.    

So much trouble and so much delay for lack of the right question.  So if any of you veterans are having trouble getting a copy of your separation papers and you have a veterans drivers license, pull it out!   You may have a shortcut!

We have something special planned for Al, but don’t go hinting, as it is a surprise.

Oldtimer

PS:  This is what the GA DMV says:

Veterans

Veterans receive a free license until they reach the age of 65. Then they must renew their licenses every five years and are required to pass a vision test each renewal period.

You’ll need to provide a copy of your separation papers, showing your honorable discharge, to your county’s Department of Veterans Service to receive your certificate of eligibility. Present this certificate to your local driver’s license office to receive your free license.”