She Builds: Giving Women the Confidence and Skills to Maintain a Safe and Healthy Home

By Caroline Blakely, President and CEO of Rebuilding Together
Sep 27, 2016 12:00 PM ET
Campaign: She Builds

Rebuilding Together continues our mission of transforming lives and communities across the country, and we recognizes the unique challenges that women face in the form of substandard housing and lack of community resources. As we commit to creating safe and healthy homes and communities, we are bringing together a cadre of partners to address these challenges.

She Builds is a powerful collaboration between Rebuilding Together, corporate and community leaders who are dedicated to advancing the housing and community issues affecting women. We are bringing these individuals and groups together to empower women in communities nationwide, by creating safer and healthier homes and neighborhoods and generating positive community impact.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, more than one in seven women and more than one in five children live in poverty.  More than half of all low-income children live in families headed by women. Two-thirds of low-wage workers are women working for just $10.50 or less, most without a spouse’s income to rely on to support their family.

She Builds makes an impact by giving women the confidence and skills to maintain a safe and healthy home. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, many homeowners with limited income often cut back on food and medical expenses – costs that can be particularly burdensome when raising children – to be able to afford housing repairs. Through Rebuilding Together’s experience creating safe and healthy housing solutions, we can provide the practical skill sets and knowledge that women need to make critical home repairs, helping save room in their budget for other necessities.

The safe and healthy home solutions they learn from Rebuilding Together not only saves money for families, but greatly impacts the lifelong health of their children. Case Western Reserve University’s Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development has linked housing quality and housing market distress to children’s performance in kindergarten, arguing that more attention should be paid to “distressed housing as a cause of disparities in early child development and school readiness.” That same study concluded that children living in substandard housing conditions are the most likely to test positive for lead poisoning, which adversely impacts children’s health and growth. By being able to identify and address the risk factors that may impact their children’s health, women who lead households can reduce the developmental risks associated with substandard housing. 

The impact of She Builds moves beyond just individual homes. It is a holistic commitment to improving neighborhoods and communities for women. Public health researchers have repeatedly linked the physical and social environments of neighborhoods and communities to health indicators including, but not limited to: mortality, disability, birth outcomes, chronic health conditions, mental health, injuries and violence.

We’re working with our partners across the country to address these issues. On October 1, Rebuilding Together will partner with our New York City affiliate to renovate the Sarah Powell Huntington House, a homeless shelter for formerly incarcerated women and their children managed by the Women's Prison Association. Volunteers will be doing repairs and renovation that include mold abatement, upgrades to the child care floor, repainting of rooms and hallways, and upgrades to the shared outdoors space. Since 1993, the Sarah Powell Huntington House has given recently reunified families the chance to access services designed to promote long-term health, stability, and self-sufficiency.

The work performed by our volunteers during this project will build on that foundation by giving these women a healthier shelter as they prepare to find their own housing, and giving them the basic skills to improve and repair their new home.

In June, we joined with our Nashville affiliate and HGTV for She Builds Nashville. The event brought HGTV talent and country music stars together with local volunteers to restore Thistle Farms, a sanctuary helping women survivors of abuse, addiction, trafficking and prostitution by providing them with a safe place to live, counseling, job training and other basic life skills and services.

According to my friend Annette Brun from HGTV, it was important for them to get involved in She Builds because the HGTV audience is made up of mostly women, and they wouldn’t be as successful as they are today without their steadfast loyalty and passion for the brand. So any opportunity to support the idea of empowering women to help women in need is a nice way to honor those who’ve been their most supportive enthusiasts.    

On October 22, we will be in the Seattle area working with several women struggling to remain a part of the Allentown neighborhood that they both love and have been a part of for years. We will also lead workshops for the community, inviting these women's neighbors to learn the homes repairs skills they need to improve their own homes

Our coalition is growing, and we are adding new partners and advocates with each She Builds project. We are excited to bring this transformative movement to communities across the country, and champion for women’s education on safe and healthy homes and communities.