City of Yakima helps elderly and disabled by cleaning up deteriorating homes

YAKIMA, WA - It's often referred to as one of Yakima's hidden gems. The Office of Neighborhood Development Services helps seniors or low income families with home repairs, and cleans up eyesores around the city.

Going from disaster to feeling like he won the lotto. That's the way Frank Murray describes his phone call with Office of Neighborhood Development Services (ONDS).

"Couple weeks ago when the big winds came, I lost about half my roof," said Murray. "No money. No way to fix it."

In 2013, ONDS helped more than 100 seniors like Frank with emergency or regular home repairs, free of charge.

"I've got a new roof," said Murray. "It's amazing."

Manager Archie Matthews said ONDS depends on about $1.2 million in federal funds a year. They also rely on a whole lot of dedicated volunteers. Not only do they help seniors with housing repairs, but the organization also helps clean up illegal dump sites and graffiti.

"We are constantly fighting graffiti," said Matthews. "If graffiti would just stop. If we could get the kids and the taggers to understand how much they're costing us as a community."

Volunteers racked up hours painting over graffiti found in the city. In 2013, they used nearly 700 gallons of paint to go over more than 12,500 different locations of graffiti.

Matthews said the only way ONDS can keep producing this amount of work in the future is through volunteers. But unfortunately, volunteer numbers have been declining over the past several years.

"We use to get 14,000-15,000 volunteer hours a year, and that's kind of slipped down to about 12,000," said Matthews. "I don't know what's generating that."

Matthews said in 2013, they painted 26 homes with volunteers. However, 15 years ago, before ONDS even started using volunteers, they could only get to five homes a year.

If you would like to volunteer with ONDS, you can stop by their Yakima office located on the corner of 8th Street and Walnut.

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