Category Archives: First HAND Blog

First Hand Blog – 6/22/16


I am sad to say that this is the last blog I will be writing for HAND. I wanted to take this time to tell you a bit about my overall experience.


Working as an intern for HAND has given me a wealth of opportunities and experiences that I am so thankful for. Through HAND I was able to explore a lot of my interests; from writing these blogs, to taking photographs, to creating film and social media content, I was able to expand my skills in all different kinds of fields. I learned how to be a better employee and how to form great relationships with the people I work for. I feel very lucky to have gotten to work with such amazing, passionate people who really went out of their way to teach me about what they do and make me feel apart of it. Through helping with fundraisers, attending conferences, and being involved in staff meetings, I have really gotten an inside look at how a nonprofit and HAND specifically works. I have leaned so much from the people I work with and, again, I am so thankful.


I am also grateful for the chance to meet Hamilton County residents and learn more about the community I have grown up in. Before coming to HAND, I did not know about the issues our neighbors face or, on the other hand, the everyday positive occurrences. There are so many people here who need that extra help. I was not aware of that need or how to help them. HAND has taught me so much about how to aid those people and combat the issues they face. I have been given a deeper appreciation for how our cities work. Meeting residents has been a blessing in itself. Hearing people’s stories was really eye opening. There are people right next store who are trying to overcome many obstacles due to various financial disabilities, but HAND is doing a great job in helping them through that journey. Also, the positive stories are just as eye opening. All of the neighborhood projects and clean ups, stories of residents working together to help one another and their community were moving to me. I hope that going forward, I will get the chance to meet more of my neighbors and community members, to hear their stories and expand my viewpoint of the world around me.


Lastly, I would just like to say one final thank you for all the support and love given to me through this internship. I hope that HAND will continue to expand and do the wonderful things they do. I hope that more and more residents will get involved to combat the issues Hamilton County is facing. I also hope that more and more neighbors will reach out to one another. Getting to know the people in your community is such a powerful tool in the world we live today. Not only does it help organize people to advocate for community issues, but it also gives people another friend, another kind face to help out when you’re in need of flour or sugar. Thank you to those of you who reader these blogs; your support is greatly appreciated as well. Finally, thank you again to the wonderful employees at HAND, for your time, teachings, and support. Thank you.

First Hand Blog – 6/3/16


Good afternoon! 

The focus of today’s blog is Helping HAND, a branch of HAND. Helping HAND was a program created to help Hamilton County residents with home repair. These repair projects are done to ensure the house and homeowners’ safety and health. Helping HAND is led by Michelle Westermeier who is passionate about helping the people in her community. The program has been able to complete an array of projects from repairing water damage to remodels in order to improve wheelchair accessibility. Helping HAND has done projects for families, individuals, and seniors to make sure they feel comfortable in their homes and are able to remain in them for as long as the homeowners wish. I was lucky enough to speak with one of the homeowners to ask her about the project Helping HAND did for her.  To respect the homeowner’s privacy, we are using the name, Cindy Smith for this blog.


Cindy is a homeowner in Hamilton County. Her and her husband moved into a house expecting only a few problems due to the disclosure statement given. However, once the house was sold to the Smiths and the couple moved in, they were shocked and disappointed to find a large amount of complications. The house was suffering from water damage and the base board heating was costing them a fortune with their electric bill. Cindy had tried to repair some of the damages herself, like putting tar on leaks in the roof, but she was faced with too many issues to take on herself. She felt lucky to have heard about HAND through a relative. Helping HAND came to her house and put in a new roof, gutters, five new windows, insulation, and a furnace. They also removed a tree because of the danger it posed to the house during storms as well as another tree because it was forcing water under the house. I asked Cindy if she was surprised by any of the results and she responded, “There’s not a lot of helping people out there that will do these type of things (projects). So I was extremely surprised and just kind of in awe.” The project gave her a much safer, comfortable, lasting, and affordable house for her and her husband. Cindy went on to remark how relieving the results were, saying, “It took so much stress off of us. It lifted the world off of our shoulders to know that I don’t have to worry, during a storm, about our tree falling on our house or running around with buckets.”


I also asked Cindy why she thought there was a need for such a program like Helping HAND. Many people in Hamilton County don’t see why a program like this exists, believing that a wealthy county doesn’t need assistance. But when I asked Cindy she explained, “There’s a huge need.  “You don’t know what job situation might happen, and you don’t plan to get down. These are hard-working people who are trying so hard, and they don’t want million dollar homes. They don’t expect to eat steak every night. They just want to live a comfortable life. .And this is a wonderful program to help out with those things.” Hamilton County is truly in need of programs like Helping HAND. With the high cost of housing, traveling, and other things, it can become difficult for homeowners to keep up when they hit a rough patch. Helping HAND was created for those times, to help keep residents in the homes they’ve invested in and love. Cindy expressed her desire and need to stay in the home she loves saying, “We want to die here. This is our place. We love it and if HAND hadn’t helped us, I don’t know what would have happened.”


HAND, as a whole, hopes to grow the program as much as possible to help out more homeowners like Cindy. The need is present and Helping HAND is trying to reduce that need. By completing simple repairs like roof patching or building a ramp for residents in wheelchairs, HAND hopes to keep their neighbors in the homes they love. Making it easier, healthier, safer, and more comfortable for people to live in Hamilton County is one of the main goals at HAND, and they hope they continue to provide just that.

First Hand Blog 6/1/16



Hello readers! Hope you’re having a great day!

Today I wanted to talk about the new housing campaign HAND is launching. The campaign is called Housing For All (#Housing4HamCo), and HAND is excited. HAND is hoping to raise awareness and community involvement regarding the need for affordable housing in Hamilton County. Strategies were developed at the Neighborhoods NOW Conferences that will run through the year 2018. These strategies are as follows:


  1. Growth Strategies
  • Partner with businesses to meet employees’ needs, encourage business expansion, support place-making in northern Hamilton County and generate funding for mixed-income developments
  1. Affordability
  • Support public and private partnerships to address critical, immediate housing needs while maintaining a focus on permanent housing options that promotes vibrant, stable communities
  1. Sustainability
  • Linking jobs with housing, which reduces commuter costs
  1. Seniors
  • Create housing that allows seniors to age in place, and build communities that are physically and financially accessible for all generations


With donations and support, HAND is hoping to achieve great success in providing affordable and quality housing for seniors, families, and millennials. Hamilton County is planning to grow more and more within the next few years. This growth includes creating job opportunities for many current and incoming residents. With this expansion comes new workers who want and need to live in Hamilton County. However, the county has a significant lack in available affordable housing that the incoming workers will need. Commuting costs can be burdensome on many workers, making it difficult to maintain the jobs they have in Hamilton County. HAND would like to solve this problem by creating new housing units so that commuting costs and high housing prices are not an issue.


HAND also plans to partner with local businesses. By having direct relationships with businesses and their employees, HAND can better assist the needs of residents and workers. Public and private partnerships will also aid HAND in addressing immediate housing needs and expanding the community. Working together with neighboring organizations and businesses helps HAND stay in the loop and allows HAND to help bring the community together. Understanding the needs and wants of Hamilton County is vital to HAND’s work. With increased communication, HAND is able to grow the community and make it into the vibrant, diverse county it is more than capable of being.


Be on the look-out for ways to get involved in the campaign and community as a whole. Residents of Hamilton County play one of the biggest roles in development and local improvement. By voicing concerns and supporting local businesses and organizations, residents can make a big impact on their neighborhoods and cities. HAND hopes that their neighbors will support the goal of increasing housing for all.

First HAND – 5/23/16


Good afternoon!


One aspect that HAND wanted to look into was how housing related to schools and more importantly, the students. I went to Hinkle Creek Elementary and spoke with counselors Lynn Cook and Donna Brooks. From our meeting I gained a lot of knowledge and insight on the effects housing has on children and their families. At the elementary school level, counselors are already seeing a large correlation between the stableness of a child’s home and their success in school.


I asked Cook and Brooks about the impact they see on the kids. They said that many kids have trouble focusing and succeeding in school because of unstable housing, saying it becomes difficult when they have to worry about where they are spending the night. Cook explained that, “You need to have food, and shelter, and clothing, and feel safe before you can learn anything.” When the child is in need, they don’t have the time to worry about their homework or academic success, which sets their future on a harder path. Brooks went on to say, “When a family needs housing, they seem to need other things too. They usually need employment or protection or a vehicle.” Housing is only a piece of the puzzle. Families in Hamilton County are struggling to afford the quality of life they want for their children. The high prices of housing and other necessities makes it difficult for them to support themselves. Cook said that once a family can’t afford Hamilton County, they move to a more dangerous, yet affordable, area. Often families move back to areas they had trouble with in the past, because it’s what they can afford. Cook commented, “It’s heartbreaking, because you see these parents who really want to do what’s best for their kids and they really feel that our schools give them that, but they can’t even afford to live here.”


We went on to discuss how the lack of affordable housing plays a role in what they see in schools. Cook and Brooks both agree that Hamilton County is in need of housing that is accessible to all types of individuals and families. The housing that is affordable for struggling families, is unavailable or requires a long wait. Cook explains, “The wait is terrible. These are crisis situations where they don’t have a place to stay tonight but then, once they jump through the hoops that they’re supposed to, they find out it’s going to take years. That’s defeating.” Hamilton County needs affordable housing, and now. The necessity for it is there, but we need to act quickly. Brooks says that these families are wanting to contribute to the community and want to take advantage of the Hamilton County’s opportunities for their children. They are trying hard, but their is a lot to their problem; there is a reason behind a family’s lack of housing. As counselors, Cook and Brooks do their best to help the children in their school. They take advantage of resources like Hamilton County Youth Assistance, and do all they can to remain a constant supporter in the child’s life. Cook says, “We always try to be the voice of the child and advocate for them.”


Due to the problem schools are seeing, HAND is looking to develop more affordable housing units in Hamilton County to fight against these issues. By opening up more opportunities for families to obtain shelter for their kids, HAND can help students focus and succeed in school. Giving a child a stable home is vital to the future of the child. Hamilton County is known for its great school systems and wealth of opportunity, but it’s time we gave anyone and everyone access to all the county has to offer.

First HAND – 04/18/2016


In honor of Fair Housing month, I thought I would explain what it entails and why it is important to HAND. The month is meant to celebrate and educate people about the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968. The act was created to prevent discrimination of race, color, disability, national origin, religion, sex, and family situation when buying, renting, or securing financing for housing.

The Civil Rights Movement started coming to a close when the Fair Housing Act was passed. The act was signed in response to the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and the riots the followed his death. The act was the last to be passed because of the Civil Rights Movement. It fought to integrate people of color, and other persons, into white communities by create housing equality. Today the act still plays a huge role in trying to prevent discrimination in housing in order to construct healthy and balanced neighborhoods.

Despite the long journey towards creating equality across America, there is still discrimination everywhere—including Hamilton County. Executive director, Nate Lichti, explains that the discrimination is seen through more subtle ways. He explains, “We’re talking about affordable and community housing not being developed because of community standards. Those standards drive up the price of housing, and unnecessarily impact groups that are capable of contributing to the community.”

With a prospering city comes the desire to create more and more expensive housing to obtain a higher standard of living. However, a growing community needs people to work and serve in that community, making it necessary to have all types of residents with all types of incomes to live and thrive. The Fair Housing act goes a long way to protect citizens, but it fails to stop housing discrimination against many groups such as those who make low income. HAND hopes that with upcoming studies, Hamilton County can help fight against this injustice. Nate explains to aid this cause, “We can, through the development or promotion of policies that support affordable housing, help combat housing discrimination.”

HAND is also trying to learn more about fair housing as well as educate the community, because with awareness and sensitivity, more can be done to stop the discrimination Americans are still fighting against today. HAND hopes that outside companies and residents will be willing to jump into to aid the cause. Nate states there are ways to get involved saying, “There is an analysis being done this spring that will update a five year old study about the barriers to fair housing; during that process there will be an opportunity for public engagement. We’re hoping that, through the new housing advisory council and discussions with other community stake holders, we can identify some pertinent, relevant strategies to address the concerns that come out of the report.”

Another important term to know and understand this month is disparate impact. Disparate Impact is a legal doctrine under the Fair Housing Act saying that any policy imposed that unintentionally creates discrimination or imbalance in a community, must be changed. The doctrine is closely linked to the goals of HAND and other supporters who want Indiana to change some of its housing policies to get rid of unintentional discrimination in the state. By incorporating affordable housing in economically stable places, such as Hamilton County, discrimination can be diminished. Giving all types of people access to healthy neighborhoods and growing communities can help prevent unfair treatment across Indiana.