Residents in the Twin Cities welcome a new community program that offers free plumbing services to residents. Older residents, many who are widowed or have lived in their homes for over 40 years, live on fixed incomes and cannot afford to have routine drips or leaks fixed.
Water’s Off is a community program that helped Marlane Straka of St. Paul fix the leaky faucets that she had long given up on.
Free plumbing inspections and repairs are being offered through the program, which includes union plumbers, community leaders and contractors who are volunteering their time and materials to residents.
The program first started in 1994 and has provided over $1.5 million in plumbing services to 3,500 households since. A total of 11,000 hours of labor has been provided by volunteers that want to help residents on fixed incomes or low incomes make plumbing reports.
It’s a courtesy to residents, with 200 volunteers working on 80 residences this year. Many of the volunteers are apprentice plumbers that are between the ages of 19 and 30. Apprentices need as much practical training as possible, with apprenticeships requiring years of work before an apprentice can become a licensed plumber.
The program helps residents fix their plumbing while apprentices can add to their apprenticeship hours.
Water’s Off has a list which residents can be put on when they qualify for the Community Action Partnership (CAP). The program is in Ramsey and Washington counties and is part of the energy assistance program offered. The program helps residents with low incomes pay for their electric and heating bills.
Residents that qualify for CAP can then be added to the list of other programs, such as Water’s Off.
Residents added to program lists were then sent letters asking if they needed help fixing their plumbing issues. The limitation of the Water’s Off program allows for just the first 25 people in St. Paul to respond to have their plumbing inspected and fixed for free. The program claims that they would love to help more families, but they note that they need more volunteers to be able to expand the program further.
Contractors donate as much as $60,000 in materials to help complete the projects.
Straka of St. Paul was one of the first to respond to the mail and received hundreds of dollars in repairs. The repairs would have been too costly for her to afford being on a strict, fixed income. Water’s Off is a first-come, first-serve program that completes as many projects annually as the number of volunteers can allow.
Materials are donated by many of the contractors, which own and operate their own family businesses. Union contractors work alongside many of the family-owned plumbers to get the job done. Management also works with unions to come together for the greater good of the community.
Water’s Off day was on Saturday April 7 and featured over 75 homeowners in Rochester and the Twin Cities. There were over 100 volunteers that made the no-cost assistance possible to the 75 homeowners that were either seniors, low-income or disabled.