A local tribe has received federal money to upgrade things like heating, plumbing and roofing for houses and trailers in Wrangell. It’s accepting applications from Native homeowners through the end of next month. 

Donna Kuntz had lived in her house for more than 30 years when it was inspected.

“The assessor said my electrical the box outside box was not up to code and was dangerous the way it is.”

That was eight years ago.

“If I qualify this time I’d really like to have my electrical checked and my fuse box outside updated and wiring updated.”

The local tribe, Wrangell Cooperative Association, might be able to help her. It’s received a $600,000 grant to upgrade homes owned by Alaska and other Natives.

Her situation isn’t uncommon. Tom Rooney lives in a two-bedroom house with his mom and step-dad.

“I’m disabled, you know.”

He’s in a wheelchair.

“I guess if I wanted to, I’d get a ramp to put in and a bigger bathroom, a handicap bathroom, just so it’s a lot safer in the house.”

The money comes from a federal Indian Community Development Block Grant. It’s called the “Healthy Homes Program” and is administered by the The Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority.

Melanie Rodriguez helps run the program, which hopes to upgrade 20 houses in the community.

“We prioritize by elders over the age of 62, if you have children in the home under the age of six. And then it also goes down to income and any kind of health issues your household might be facing in regards to the condition of the home.”

She says no problem is too big to tackle. The goal is to address hazardous living conditions. And prevent small problems from turning into big ones.

A 2016 survey by the Wrangell Cooperative Association found that a third of households had someone over 60 living there. That would automatically give them priority.

Aaron Angerman used to work for the tribe as the administrator.

“We want to keep our elders here and healthy. We don’t want them to move away because of conditions in the home or anything else like that.

Once an applicant is approved, the regional authority and tribe discuss with the homeowner which upgrades are practical and necessary. The work is supposed to take a month or two.

The Wrangell Cooperative Association has applications at it’s office, and there’s a deadline: Feb. 28.

Angerman says he hopes it’ll keep the community intact. Every Native homeowner in Wrangell is eligible for the assistance.

“Wrangell’s a pretty special place and it’s important for us to take care of those who are our future and those who got us here.”

But like nearly every form of assistance – first you have to apply.

Call Samantha Jackson at 907-772-2316 with any questions regarding the application.