Members of the Neighborhood Brigade stand in front of the newly painted house.

An act of kindness that saved a home

The SVdP Neighborhood Brigade helped a man keep his home by upkeeping it when he couldn't

SVdP’s Neighborhood Brigade came together to not only make the community a more beautiful and dignified place, but they also helped a neighbor in need keep his home — all with a little elbow grease and fresh paint!

John Harper is a senior living on a fixed income in a small home around downtown Phoenix. He likes his home, but because of his age and health conditions, he hasn’t been able to take as much care of it as he — or the City of Phoenix — would like. Unfortunately, it fell into a state of disrepair. Weeds were piling up and paint was flaking off. 

Starting back in 2015, the city fined him for disrepair around his house, but due to his age and his health he was unable to address the problem. Over time, his house only became more weathered by the relentless sun, dry desert heat, and monsoon storms. The homeowner, being on a fixed income, needed help in order to stop the fines from piling up.

By 2023, the fines had accrued into the thousands and he was facing the real possibility of losing his home. 
However, the Neighborhood Preservation Division recognized that the state of disrepair wasn’t John’s fault, so they worked with him to find a solution. That’s when Gabriela Garcia of the NPD reached out to SVdP’s Workforce Development team, which houses the Neighborhood Brigade, to see if they could lend a helping hand. 

The Brigade is made up of guests in our shelters who become temporary, part-time SVdP employees. They work 6-10 hours per week picking up litter, most often on SVdP campuses, to provide a safe and dignified environment to all who seek our services. 

“We keep the community clean,” said Denish McKinely, a proud member of the brigade and a resident at SVdP’s Ozanam Manor for adults 55+, veterans, and those with disabilities.

This opportunity gives brigade members a chance to re-enter the workforce, earn a modest income, and gain experience for future employment opportunities to keep them stable after they transition out of SVdP shelters. 
When the Brigade heard about John’s plight, they immediately jumped at the chance to offer their help.

“I knew we could help, and this was the perfect opportunity for the Neighborhood Brigade to take its mission outside our spaces and help this neighbor in need,” said Erinn Demario, the Workforce Supervisor in the Workforce Development program.

Members of the Neighborhood Brigade repaint John Harper's house.
Members of the Neighborhood Brigade repaint John's house.

So on the morning of November 17, the program bussed all 3 Neighborhood Brigades from SVdP’s various shelters (as well as some dedicated staff) to downtown Phoenix and got to work! 

By the end of the day, the little house shined with its fresh coat and the city was able to forgive John of all the fines that had accrued over the previous years. 

“The man broke down into tears while thanking everyone for their hard work and shared the relief he felt now that he wouldn't have to worry about this massive financial burden,” Erinn said. “We connected him to his SVdP conference and plan to follow up with a home visit soon! It is only through partnerships like these that we can make a bigger impact in our community, so a big thank you to the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department for going the extra mile to help a neighbor in need!”

John Harper's house stands newly repainted.
John's house after the Neighborhood Brigade repainted it.

Acts of kindness like this don’t only benefit the people being served, they also help those serving. 

“It was really cool to go there and do that for him… We're here in this transition, but we are going to help someone else to keep their place,” said Denise McKinley, one of the Brigade members who helped repaint John’s home. “That's the main goal, to help someone not get out on the street or to be homeless. It was really good because of that.”