Last October, I started my 11 month journey as an AmeriCorps Energy Corps service member with Climate Smart Missoula. I was thrilled to get started on my primary project, developing a pilot weatherization program aimed at enhancing energy efficiency, health and safety of manufactured homes, with an emphasis on homes built before the 1976 federal building code. I was surprised to learn that there are 6,000 manufactured homes in Missoula, and about half of them were built before this time. An estimated 1200 of these homes could be lost by 2025 due to deteriorating conditions and issues with moving them. To address and help preserve community members' homes, Climate Smart has partnered with NeighborWorks Montana, the Human Resource Council, and Home ReSource (full disclosure Climate Smart is in awe of our partner organizations). We're now a Team, and our Team has done a lot to set ourselves up for success: defining the scope of our efforts, building community awareness, engaging stakeholders, and providing resources directly to residents. I’m proud of our accomplishments.
I’ll share a few examples of the work we’ve done this year and upcoming efforts:
This Spring, our Team hosted the first ever Manufactured Home Resource Fair. Our goal: provide resources for manufactured home residents around Home Repair, Weatherization, Financing, Legal Counseling and Health.
Along with our Team, a handful of local organizations joined. MUD co-hosted at their site. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) generously donated “light weatherization materials”. We gave away LED lights, weather-stripping, window insulation kits, and water pipe insulation. Climate Smart provided informational pamphlets on the energy savings associated with each. These materials can benefit manufactured homes in particular because upgrades are especially cost-effective, given rates of heat loss and wasted energy. Participants were thrilled with what they received, and we have more left to give out! We're planning mini “pop up” fairs in manufactured home communities in July and August to provide resources directly to residents.
To assist with financial counseling, HomeWord provided materials on their financial education program that can help residents looking to save for improvements on their homes. MoFi provided information on their small dollar loan program, a low interest loan specifically for manufactured home repairs. as did the Missoula Federal Credit Union. Additionally, Montana Legal Services offered legal counseling resources.
For help with home repair, MUD offered discounts to their “Tool Library” where folks can access tools for home repair projects. Home ReSource provided coupons for their store which has a plethora of hardware, tools, and home repair materials. Other groups shared assistance programs.
The goal of the Fair was to support residents as they work to improve the safety, health, energy efficiency, livability and longevity of their homes, and ultimately to preserve existing affordable housing. Manufactured housing, in fact, represents the largest supply of unsubsidized affordable housing in the country. I was grateful for the all the organizations that came out and for the opportunity to help coordinate this effort. I'm hopeful for more of these Resource Fairs in the future!
We hosted a “design charrette” in February aimed at building community awareness, engaging key stakeholders and generating designs for our energy retrofit. We invited local builders, architects, weatherization professionals and manufactured home residents to design models of skirting that fir our project goals: energy efficiency, health and comfort. We sought improvements that were long lasting, safe and affordable. We split into teams and, working together, successfully generated new and creative ideas for improvements in this sector which we're excited to implement.
During the event, I interacted with homeowners who'd received weatherization services from the Human Resource Council (HRC) and gained a sense of the profound effect an energy retrofit can have on an individual's life. A mobile home resident commented that the weatherization work the HRC recently did allowed her to be comfortable and was so thankful that her house “wasn’t cold in the winter anymore”. She also mentioned saving nearly $50/month on utility costs. Speaking to residents personally about the benefits of weatherization was really encouraging. The models created at the design charrette could improve many community members’ lives, making their homes more energy efficient, comfortable, and healthy. Bringing experts to the table was incredibly beneficial, and we plan to use the re-skirting ideas on manufactured homes in July and August.
Re-skirting Five Manufactured Homes
After all this good work, our Team is now poised to work on skirting replacements for 5 homes in the Missoula area and are in the process of creating a “design refine team”. This team will visit five homes and refine the "charrette" skirting designs based on the specifications of the home and wishes of the homeowner. If you have building, architecture or weatherization experience and are interested in helping with our skirting repair model, please reach out to me, Max.
Stay tuned, and check for updates on the Home Rehab section of our web page.
- Max Longo, Energy and Climate Coordinator
Late last August I eagerly packed my things while profusely sweating in the hot and humid climate of northern Indiana. I naively looked forward to the cooler, drier weather of my new home in Missoula where I would be attending graduate school. Instead I arrived to a hot, smoke filled valley. Looking out my window on one of my first morning I mistook the smoke for a beautiful morning fog.
Since then I have heard many horror stories of the impacts of wildfire smoke on physical and mental health. I had a professor who skyped in from Seattle because she was so sick she couldn’t be in Missoula. A parent told me their child could not play outside for nearly two months. While a sort of post-traumatic stress may keep wildfire smoke at the forefront of Missoulian minds, this is just one example of how climate change and community health are related.
At Thursday night’s monthly meetup covering the topic of health and climate, participants helped generate a list of what we knew about the possible global health consequences of climate change. Here are some of the things we came up with:
A recurring theme throughout the night’s discussion centered on how we define vulnerable populations. In the context of climate and health, vulnerable populations have traditionally been defined as the young and elderly. Several participants called for outdoor workers to be included in this definition as they face numerous occupational hazards. Think local farmers and highway workers.
Let’s Be Proactive
Thankfully, as the meetup’s title “Healthy Community and Summer Smart” suggests, Thursday night’s discussion was not all doom and gloom. Nurse scientist, St. Patrick Hospital’s sustainability coordinator, and Climate Smart executive team member Beth Schenk spoke with us about some of the exciting efforts she, the hospital, and local health researchers are making to create a healthier community. Amy added to this proactive message by discussing some of Climate Smart’s “Summer Smart” work.
Nurses: The New Climate Messengers
Beth mentioned a few of the efforts she has been involved with both nationally and around Missoula:
More local efforts
Check out our “Summer Smart” tab for information about some of our health and climate efforts. Here are a few highlights:
Since August I have come a long way from mistaking smoke for fog. As a new member of the Climate Smart team, I am excited to continue learning about the local effects of climate change and what we can do here in our own community. I found the proactive message of Thursday’s discussion an inspirational launch point as I dive into the world of climate change work this summer.
- Mattie Lehman, Intern and UM Brainerd Fellow