Senior citizens in Oak Park and River Forest have a new source for help their home renovation and maintenance tasks. Oak Park and River Forest townships, as well as the respective village government counterparts, have banded together to start a new handyman program for residents over 60 years old.

“We’ve seen this need resurface through the years, and this was a really exciting option to bring forward as a solution,” said Pam Mahn, senior services director of Oak Park and River Forest townships. 

Through the new handyman program, Oak Park and River Forest seniors can have an insured and reliable professional clean their gutters, repair faucets, hang shelves and take care of many other home maintenance needs for a cost of $20, $30 or $40 an hour, depending on income level. The fees are much more affordable than hiring a professional outside of the program, according to Mahn.

“Generally, if you call a plumber or a professional for home repairs, you’re often times looking at even a $50 or $75 charge just to come out and look at the home,” she said. “And that’s before they even do anything.”

The two townships and village governments are splitting the program’s administrative costs during its first year, with each entity contributing $1,750. Those costs to the local governments include interviewing handymen, conducting background checks and training.

“What we’re going to also do  application for funding for those who are low income to receive services without cost,” said Mahn.

For the program, the four taxing bodies are working with Northwest Housing Partnership, a non-profit agency promoting public and private partnerships that create and preserve cost-effective quality housing for residents of low to moderate incomes.

“We really appreciate the Northwest Housing Partnership for their willingness to include the residents of Oak Park and River Forest into their scope of work,” said Mahn. “Robyn Sandys, executive director, has been an asset to moving the work forward throughout this time.”

To reserve a handyman, Oak Park and River Forest seniors need only to call Northwest Housing. The non-profit will take down the caller’s information, discuss what tasks need accomplishing and then schedule a visit from the handyman, who happens to live locally, according to Mahn. The senior then pays the handyman directly.

David Taub will serve as the program’s handyman. Mahn said that Taub will gauge whether additional workers should be hired based on the amount of repair work generated through the program.

The handyman’s training extends beyond that which is required to make general repairs and install basic home necessities.

“The handy person is going to be participating in dementia friends training, so they know what it looks like to work with someone who may have dementia and know that they can reach out to us if they see any concerning issues,” said Mahn.

Given there is only one handyman, the availability to make emergency repairs is not guaranteed. The program is meant to help seniors with routine upkeep and general fixes, such as the installation of grab bars.

“We’re focused especially on home modifications to make sure that it’s accessible for them to stay in the home and be able to stay in the community.”

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