In 2022, Dawn wasn’t sure she was going to make it. She wasn’t sure if she could find the strength and motivation to continue. After two serious bouts of illness left her disabled, Dawn relied on a walker for balance. And suddenly, her home was unnavigable. She couldn’t access her shower because she couldn't step into the tub. Her doorways each contained raised thresholds that didn’t allow her to move through her home unobstructed. Moving from room to room presented the real danger of falling. Dawn felt alone and afraid.
For Dawn, living alone, being independent, and helping to care for others was a point of pride. After raising her three kids in Bakersfield, CA, she moved back to Candler, NC, to be a caregiver to her aunt. Now, she found basic daily tasks overwhelming. Her hygiene, her long-term recovery from illness, and her mental health were suffering.
“I had to start all over,” Dawn said. “I was alone this time. I couldn't take a shower. I could barely get in the bathroom. Honestly, to not be able to take care of myself, that really did a lot to me psychologically.”
Dawn’s caseworker, Kelle, was concerned about Dawn’s full recovery and state of mind. She told Dawn about a new healthcare program from Impact Health called the Healthy Opportunities Pilot—HOP for short. HOP’s goal is to address broader factors that can determine a person’s health, known as social determinants of health. HOP connects Medicaid-eligible people with resources to support their overall health and safety and services that can help with food, housing, transportation, legal support, and emotional well-being. Kelle, also a registered nurse, advised Dawn of these supportive services and encouraged her to get the help she needed.
That’s when Dawn was connected to MHO’s Essential Home Repair program. In August 2022, MHO Emergency Home Repair Specialist Eric Johnson visited Dawn at home and could understand why she was having so much difficulty taking care of herself. Her bathroom’s layout didn’t allow Dawn to use her walker, and the sink, tub, toilet, and flooring needed to be replaced. Eric listened to Dawn’s concerns and ensured she felt comfortable with his repair plan. By early November, the repairs were complete. The positive impact the repairs had on Dawn was immediate. Dawn can now use her new walk-in shower safely in her home, something she wasn’t able to do before. She said while she still needs more help than she’s used to, she feels much better than she has in a long time.
“I feel safer. I'm not as independent as I'd like to be yet. I'm going to have to work on that, but I have self-worth. That goes a long way towards motivation to have more independence,” Dawn said. “It's like building blocks. You guys have given me all the tools. I feel so much better. It makes me feel so much more motivated.”
Safe, stable housing is a foundational social determinant of health. MHO’s Essential Home Repair program joined the Healthy Opportunities network as a partner when HOP launched in 2022. MHO brought 35 years of experience providing health and safety-related home repairs to elderly, low-income, special needs residents of Buncombe County. As a HOP partner, MHO expanded home repair services to include more people, including families with medically fragile children and eligible residents of McDowell, Rutherford, and Yancey counties. Essential home repairs allow people to stay safe and healthy in their homes, help preserve our region’s naturally occurring affordable housing, and prevent homelessness.
“Housing is healthcare,” Eric said, “And we are proud to be a part of Impact Health’s innovative program. As a HOP partner, MHO can deliver critical home repairs to more of our vulnerable neighbors in the region.”
Eric is now working with Dawn to install a new water heater in her home. He also connected her to another HOP network partner who could install a ramp at her front door. As for Dawn, she focuses on healing one day at a time. Doyle, Dawn’s cat and constant companion, remains a big part of her daily motivation. Dawn shares that the self-worth she feels due to her safer, more accessible home goes a long way.
“If you don't start with having a good feeling about yourself to begin with, you can't get anywhere,” she said. “That’s what the bathroom gave me. I wake up feeling more like me.”