Habitat for Humanity seeks to help Downtown Sequim

Neighborhood Revitalization surveyors hit streets Sept. 19

Community members will patrol the streets of Downtown Sequim on Saturday, Sept. 19, looking for ways to help.

Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County is organizing a survey of the condition of streets, homes and the general area of four downtown quadrants as part of its initial Neighborhood Revitalization plan.

Cyndi Hueth, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, said the volunteers are part of an effort to help the Sequim-Dungeness area again.

She said Habitat’s local branch was founded in 1991 as the Dungeness Valley Habitat for Humanity and they worked to build nine homes but it’s been many years since they’ve done a project in the area.

They opened an office in January in Downtown Sequim but without land in the Sequim-Dungeness area to develop a home for an in-need family, Hueth said they are pursuing neighborhood revitalization instead.

“Neighborhood revitalization is actually happening across the United States with Habitat for Humanity,” she said. “We’re asking the community —what do you need? Habitat and the city aren’t going in telling you this is what you need.”

The survey stems from a $5,000 grant from the Habitat for Humanity for Neighborhood Revitalization with another $3,500 coming from the Sequim Sunrise Rotary and a matching grant from the Rotary Foundation for a total of $12,000.

Neighborhood Revitalization projects can include improving weatherization, helping with painting, landscaping, roof repair and more.

Hueth said volunteers from the Sunrise Rotary, Habitat for Humanity, City of Sequim, churches and students with the Sequim School District will walk streets, depending on turnout, from Sequim Avenue to Fifth Avenue on the north and south sides, from Cedar Street to Fir Street and Bell Street to Pine Street.

“They’ll do an assessment of the neighborhoods to see what’s missing and what can be added,” she said.

“We’ll get back together and see if we can find partners to help us.”

Hueth said at the center of the discussion are the residents.

“What do they feel is necessary?” she asks. “Do they even want revitalization? Do their homes or their neighbors need revitalization or are they fine?”

Voluntary help

If residents want help with a project, Hueth said it’s up to them to speak with Habitat staff.

“It shouldn’t be us saying we noticed it,” she said. “You have to be part of this conversation. It’s not for us to say your house looks bad and you need to fix it. We need a buy-in.”

Joe Irvin, City of Sequim assistant to the city manager, said there’s been some concern that city staff would use the survey to enforce city code.

“There’s no enforcement involved with this survey,” he said. “We’re not going on anyone’s property.”

Code enforcement in the City of Sequim currently is complaint-driven with an investigation and potential enforcement taken after an incident is reported.

Irvin said the city was asked by Habitat to join the coalition and city staff and city councilors felt it was an opportunity to evaluate a city council goal — “to evaluate options for making improvements in the city’s downtown neighborhoods.”

“Our major interest is we need to evaluate streets, sidewalks, lighting improvements and stormwater,” Irvin said. “Since we’re doing a sidewalk survey, we asked to include some questions.”

Those include — “Are the sidewalks intact,” “Is there lighting,” “What is the condition of the street,” and “Is the yard overgrown with debris.”

Irvin said they want to see what the need is while building partnerships with service clubs and nonprofits to help.

He said the city’s Downtown Plan and in-process Comprehensive Plan do not specifically address neighborhood revitalization.

Hueth said code enforcement shouldn’t be seen as a negative in that it can help identify needs and staff can help assess the level of work that may be needed.

“It’s not Habitat’s intent to get people in trouble or to sic code enforcement on them,” she said. “The whole point is to prevent that. It’s education, too. Habitat uses code enforcement to educate brand new homeowners.”

More revitalization

Sequim’s potential Neighborhood Revitalization project isn’t the first on the Olympic Peninsula.

Hueth said a few years ago, volunteers helped with painting and landscaping a few homes in Port Angeles under the project A Brush with Kindness.

She also approached the City of Port Angeles about two months ago to identify areas of need and she plans to launch a similar effort in Forks, too.

Currently, Habitat is nearing completion on a single-family home in Port Angeles and is about 50 percent complete on another home in Forks.

Hueth said they have a land bank in western Clallam County and are in the family selection process for two more single-family homes in Port Angeles but they must fundraise to build the projects.

She said Neighborhood Revitalization is a less expensive avenue for Sequim and allows volunteers to help in other ways locally.

Potential projects in Sequim could help the elderly and/or physically impaired, too.

“Some people may be aging in place and might not be able to afford a paint job or they can pay for it but just aren’t able to do it physically,” Hueth said.

For Sequim’s Neighborhood Revitalization, Hueth said they’ll soon post applications for residents to seek support at www.habitatclallam.org. Habitat is at 350 W. Washington St., Sequim. For more information, call 681-6780.