BRIER — Dee Grayson, 77, has lived in her home for more than 30 years.
Her family lovingly named their house “Brier Rose,” after Grayson’s daughter convinced them to paint it pink.
“I thought, ‘That is the easiest dream I can ever fulfill for her,’” Grayson said.
In the past few years, however, the Graysons have struggled to repair their home. Dee Grayson suffered a traumatic brain injury after a driver hit her from behind.
Dee’s husband William Grayson, 79, a veteran, had back surgery that ultimately left him paralyzed. The couple’s money and attention went toward medical bills and buying a trailer that was more accessible for William than their large, two-story house.
The Graysons’ daughter, who saw the gutter falling off her parents’ home, found the Home Repair Service program, offered through Habitat for Humanity of Snohomish County. She helped them apply. Originally, the Graysons wanted help repainting the house and repairing their gutter.
Now, the program is helping them with a much larger project: replacing their roof.
“I was sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop or for someone to call and say, ‘We made a mistake,’” Dee Grayson said. “It was so unbelievable that they would help with such a huge thing. If they didn’t, we couldn’t live here.”
The nonprofit’s Home Repair Service program is new to Snohomish County. It started locally in fall 2020 and has since repaired nearly 20 houses. It aims to help homeowners remain in their homes.
“We can only build so many homes per year,” Executive Director Steven Li said. “All these people were falling into housing instability, housing insecurity, or even homelessness. We needed to do something to keep people inside their homes — especially as COVID hit.”
The program offers a list of services that range from painting the exterior of a home to accessibility additions, like wheelchair ramps. Construction Manager Chris Anderson said some projects are completely done by volunteer builders. The nonprofit relies on professionals to complete more complicated jobs, like the Grayson’s roof replacement.
The program requires Snohomish County homeowners to live in the home that needs repairs. The household income must be less than 60% of the area median income. The dollar amount for this qualification changes based on how many people live in the house. For example, a single-person household cannot earn more than $50,025. A household with four people cannot earn more than $71,438.
Anderson said it was clear the Graysons needed a new roof when he assessed the site in October. Dee Grayson had no idea her roof was leaking until Anderson told her. Even if she had known, Dee Grayson said, she and her husband couldn’t afford to fix it.
“It was a miracle for us,” Dee Grayson said. “I mean, how did that happen? He just came out, assessed everything and said, ‘We’re going to do this for you and the community is going to help me.’”
Axis Roof and Gutter Inc., an Arlington-based contractor, donated labor for the project. GAF, a roofing manufacturer, donated the materials.
“While this project is not as volunteer-friendly, we have a lot of projects that are more accessible,” Li said. “We are only able to accomplish as much as the community is willing to get engaged.”
Li expects construction to last about a week. Gathering resources and lining up partnerships takes more time, Li said. The Graysons contacted Habitat for Humanity about repairs last fall.
In some cases, homeowners could wait up to a year for repairs through the program. Li said the nonprofit is working on completing projects faster.
For the Graysons, their roof replacement means they can keep living in their home.
“We’re eternally grateful for them for stepping up and lending us more than a hand,” Dee Grayson said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Steven Li’s name.
Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.