Fort Bend Corps has been helping low-income, elderly and disabled residents in the area by making the most needed repairs to their homes for free for nearly 17 years.
Those dire needs could include making a house handicap-accessible, replacing a roof or building an entirely new home, Fort Bend Corps Executive Director Ron Castillo said.
“These are professional tradesmen, professional contractors [working on homes], so you’re getting work done from good quality, experienced contractors that know the business,” Castillo said. “We demand good quality work. That’s only fair to our clients.”
The organization helps a variety of communities in Fort Bend County.
“Sometimes people take for granted what a coat of paint to the outside of somebody’s house does,” said Brandy Leonhardt, Fort Bend Corps’ fiscal director.
The nonprofit receives Community Development Block Grant Program funds from the city of Sugar Land and completes projects for it separately. Clients in Sugar Land are not put on a waitlist and can apply for repairs as often as needed, Castillo said.
Otherwise, he said, Fort Bend County projects have an 18-month waitlist, and clients must wait five years to reapply for another repair from Fort Bend Corps.
The organization does not work in Missouri City but plans to apply for its Community Development Block Grant funds when the application opens, Castillo said. The organization worked within the city from 2005 to 2012.
To qualify for a free repair, a person must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident and a homeowner living in Fort Bend County. The applicant must also meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of low income and either be 62 years or older or be disabled. When an application with sufficient documentation is submitted, Fort Bend Corps has the home assessed.
“We have to do a very extensive background check on the home,” Castillo said.
Taxes and mortgage payments must be current, an environmental review is required, and houses 50 years old or older must be checked to see if they have any historic significance, which could dictate what is allowed to be done to the house, he said.
“We’ve got to make sure that Santa Anna didn’t sleep in that house or something,” Castillo said.
Fort Bend Corps started with a group of volunteers improving an area on 5th Street in Stafford. The neighborhood included mobile homes on a dirt road, and when it rained, local children would have to be driven or carried to get to or from school, Castillo said.
The nonprofit’s volunteers paved the road, and moved and installed foundations under the trailers. They discovered a need for other improvement projects in the area, he said.
Fort Bend Corps receives federal, state and county grants as well as donations, so Castillo said the organization tries to be good stewards of that money and get as much done as possible.
“Most of the time when I tell a grantor we’re going to do 20 projects, we do 24, 25 projects,” Castillo said.
The organization has completed about 175 projects in Sugar Land and about 75 projects in Missouri City, Castillo said.
Leonhardt said areas in the county that need the most help are often hidden from view.
“We travel those roads that are less traveled so that those people are not forgotten,” she said.