For the past 38 years, People Working Cooperatively
has worked to keep homeowners safely and securely in their homes. Now the nonprofit thinks it has come up with a business model that extends beyond its mission by reaching entire communities, as opposed to just PWC-served homeowners.
, in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati Economics Center,
recently released results from its 2009 study
that evaluated PWC’s performance. And results revealed economic, academic and health-related benefits for a wide range of individuals.
Energy conservation, for example, is one of PWC’s focus areas, so when the organization receives a call that a homeowner can’t afford their fuel bill, the nonprofit sends a professional who is equipped with the knowledge of energy conservation into the home to assess the situation and lead volunteers in arranging for a more ideal situation.
The study revealed energy savings of about $248 dollars per year per client, which in turn, saves taxpayers money.
According to Jock Pitts, PWC's president, the organization’s energy conservation efforts have reduced the amount of subsidy needed to cover low-income homeowners’ fuel bills. So everybody saves.
“Social service is a great thing—everybody would love to provide benefits to people because it’s charitable and it’s in their heart to do that,” Pitts says. “When times are tough, making an investment in someone that is both charitable but cost-effective. Finding that nexus between what’s cost-effective and also helpful to people.”
In addition to energy conservation, PWC provides critical home repairs, in addition to accommodations that increase residents’ mobility so they can afford to stay in their homes rather than move to subsidized housing or a nursing/extended care facility.
Study results indicated that PWC-served homes had a housing value that was 6.5 to 10.5 percent higher than similar homes that were not serviced, and homes surrounding PWC-serviced homes went up 1 to 3 percent in value.
“If PWC doesn’t make this intervention, these homes deteriorate, and people leave the home because they’re forced to, and those are the homes that you hear about or you see in other cities, much more commonly than in Cincinnati, that are abandoned—and who pays for that?” Pitts says. “So you’ve got the homeowner off at some place with subsidized living, then you’ve got an empty cell of a home that’s bringing property values down across the neighborhood. So PWC’s intervention saves the home, gets the people to be able to stay there longer and safer, and then increases the values of the homes in the neighborhood.”
Not only does PWC bring about economic and environmental benefits, but elderly individuals are healthier, as falls are reduced because of the installation of bathroom rails, for example. And individuals are able to get in and out of their homes to get to the doctor because of increased mobility options, Pitts says.
Children are also doing better in schools because they do not have to move frequently from their homes, find new friends and change school districts as often. The study indicates that children in PWC-served homes did 15 percent better in reading and 17 percent better in math than children living in homes that did not receive PWC services.
“It’s an unintended benefit, but still, isn’t it great that it occurs?” Pitts says. “We were able to pull this together and come up with a business model that is touching upon some really important issues our country doesn’t know how to handle right now, and they all benefit, so I’d love for this model to be able to spread.”
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.