Habitat for Humanity ‘ramps’ it up

Anne Marie Amacher
Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity’s ramp building project lift a section into place May 22 in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Habitat for Humanity Quad Cities is helping people in need with temporary, accessible ramps as part of a home repair program.

Deacon Steve Barton leads the repair program. He was executive director of Rebuilding Together, which Habitat Quad Cities acquired earlier this year.

Rebuilding Together previously built ramps on site. As a result of the acquisition, the program is even more efficient and requires less on-site time, Deacon Barton said. Volunteers can also build more ramps.

Habitat has space in its warehouse that allows Deacon Barton and his army of volunteers to pre-build many sections of modular ramps regardless of the weather and to use the warehouse to store them. “We are less at mercy with the weather. Before we needed a day and a half to two days to build and install. Now we can build whenever we have time and only spend about a half-day on site.” With the quicker turnaround, volunteers can watch the weather forecast and plan installation accordingly.

Despite a rainy May, three of the four planned ramps were able to be installed because of small periods of dry weather. “Needing just one day to build a ramp, or at least a good part of it, did allow us to build more in a rainy month than before,” Deacon Barton said.

Ramp applicants must meet certain criteria, such as being the home’s owner, living in the house and meeting income guidelines. Ramps are not installed on rental properties.

A visit to a potential ramp site determines whether the project is feasible and the number of switchbacks needed. Switchbacks are the turns in a ramp as it slopes from the house entrance to street level. Ramps must be designed for a person in a manual wheelchair to be able to use the ramp without assistance. Ramp owners pay for the project on a sliding fee scale and can make monthly payments.

After designs have been approved and drawn up with measurements, several ramps are pre-built at once. Anywhere between six to 12 volunteers show up to build the pre-measured ramp parts. Last fall, four ramps were built. By June 30, “we will have built 10 ramps in the first year of the program,” Deacon Barton said. “Our goal was eight ramps, so we’ll exceed the goal for this first pilot year.”

Previously Rebuilding Together completed five or six ramps per year. “We are limited by funding. The funding in the first pilot year was again for eight to 10 ramps. We are seeking funding to support as many or more than that in the next program year starting this summer. We have already received some of that funding. We also seek longer-term funding to sustain this program,” Deacon Barton said.

Program Director Ben Kantner described the program as “amazing. This saves time. We have a great system in place and we don’t have to worry about the weather.” The two men said the local cities’ consistent building code requirements for ramps is also helpful.

When it’s time for installation, a trailer is loaded with the pre-built ramps and additional wood to install railings and supports on site. On May 22, volunteers installed a ramp at the home of Mary Hernandez. Seasoned volunteers Ray Parrish, volunteer crew supervisor; Mike Desch, Chris Benson and Lee Foulk were joined by newer volunteers Ana de Oliveira and Aaron Foulk.

Various challenges, not related to weather, faced the group as they installed the ramp. With each challenge, the volunteers stopped and offered their opinions about how to proceed. One challenge involved the house’s front door. Volunteers pulled out the first section of ramp they had installed and devised a solution that required lowering the ramp.

As each section was installed, measurements were done multiple times, levels were checked and the angle of the ramp was constantly evaluated before volunteers hammered or added screws to lock in each piece. Although the ramp took longer than a half-day to complete, the project was finished more quickly than if it had been built completely on site.

Habitat Quad Cities views the ramp project as working toward its mission, which is “empowered by God to bring people together to build and renovate homes, to revitalize our community and to restore hope.”

For more information about Habitat’s ramp program or to see if you qualify, call (563) 359-9066 or visit https://www.habitatqc.org/ramp-building.html.

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