816 North

Volunteers secure housing for people in need

After three months in a hospital, Susan Heim-Davis of Kansas City, North, was looking forward to returning to her own home and the longtime companionship of her two dogs.

“But there was a question of whether I would have to go to assisted living or a nursing home instead,” Heim-Davis, 65, said.

The question wasn’t a health issue. It was a structural issue.

Heim-Davis now uses a wheelchair full time. She cannot roll the chair over the threshold of her house or the entrance to the shower.

All that is about to change. Volunteers from the Fuller Center for Housing of Greater Kansas City, Mo., will soon be making the shower and threshold wheelchair-accessible for Heim-Davis.

The Fuller Center is a nonprofit that builds, renovates, rehabs and repairs homes to make them safe and affordable for families and individuals of limited resources.

Currently, the center is accepting applications from qualified families for a new three-bedroom house being built in the Winnwood neighborhood of southern Clay County.

“Our prevailing concern is their need for decent housing,” said Terry O’Hara, president of the board of directors.

Applicants will be required to make monthly mortgage payments and to assist the Fuller Center volunteers in some way.

Founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in Georgia in 2005, the center is an ecumenical Christian housing ministry. Much of the home construction is done by an interfaith coalition of volunteers from a wide variety of churches.

“We feel that the work of the Fuller Center is what God and Jesus want us to be about — helping people in need,” O’Hara said.

Three years ago, Lorie Perdieu moved into a Clay County home built for her through the cooperation of Northland Neighborhoods Inc. and the Fuller Center. Perdieu, 51, was born with a severe disability and had rented a house in Independence for 24 years.

Perdieu’s new house has universal design features such as a no-step entry, wider doorways and hallways and a garage for the custom-equipped van she drives to work.

“This is my first front porch, my first home ever of my own,” Perdieu said. “I keep up with the mortgage payments.”

Those who are helped by the Fuller Center are not charged for the labor involved in construction. They do, however, pay for the materials.

In addition to making life easier and safer for individuals with disabilities, accessible accommodations also help their families.

In January, the Fuller Center converted a spare bedroom into an accessible bathroom for Chip Johnson, 51, of Kansas City. Johnson has cerebral palsy. He, his wife and three children live in a home in Jackson County.

The improvements, Johnson said, have considerably reduced his risk of falling.

“This takes a lot of stress and worry off my family,” he said.