USC and Rebuilding Together Partner to Grow Home Modification Programming

April 27, 2021
by Erin dos Santos, Occupational Therapy Doctorate Resident at Rebuilding Together National

Rebuilding Together has partnered with the University of Southern California’s (USC) Leonard Davis School of Gerontology to train our affiliate leaders on best practices for home modification programming. Since 2004, the USC Executive Certificate in Home Modification Series has offered five interactive, online courses over a four-month time period covering home modification topics such as policies and innovations, funding and financing strategies, policies, community coalition building and the latest research on home modification assessments, design, products, service delivery and other strategies. These courses connect professionals from around the country who learn from each other as well as experts in the field. Through extensive training on funding sources, best practices and community partnerships, the program series assists affiliates with expanding the depth and quality of home modification programming. 

Forty-eight Rebuilding Together leaders have graduated from the Executive Certificate in Home Modification program since the partnership was initiated in May of 2020. Rebuilding Together affiliates are using the course series to grow their affiliate’s Safe at Home program. Rebuilding Together’s signature Safe at Home program provides no-cost home modifications to people with mobility issues and other disabilities to improve accessibility, reduce falls, increase independence and facilitate aging-in place. Safe at Home is designed to improve aging-in-place outcomes for low-income older adults through the modification of their home environment to meet their specific needs. 

Lindsay Luhn from Rebuilding Together Montgomery County found that the courses will help to grow their presence of their Safe at Home Program in the local community. “Having a better understanding of home modifications will not only help me to provide better direct services to local homeowners but will help me to advocate and create dialogue within the community,” says Luhn. Likewise, Frank Iliff from Rebuilding Together Muscatine County used one of the course assignments to connect with the local Center for Independent Living and Area Agency on Aging. “[The Center for Independent Living] promised to send referrals to Rebuilding Together Muscatine County, along with the much-needed funding.”

Along with growing community connections, affiliate leaders are improving the quality of services and aging in place outcomes. Michael Hicks from Rebuilding Together Atlanta was able to apply his newfound knowledge to create a work scope for the home of a veteran living with a disability who had not been able to leave a skilled nursing facility due to accessibility issues at home. “He was able to return home,” says Hicks. Brian Coller from Rebuilding Together Of Central Florida found that the course shed light on how to complete home assessments and what home modifications to recommend. “The course showed me how to more accurately recognize and screen applicants in need of home modification and accessibility services.”

The courses also expose students to funding opportunities to ensure the sustainability and growth of access to services. “The resources presented opened doors to funding streams previously unknown and led to new partnerships in our community,” says Joanne Alford-Robinette of Rebuilding Together Warner Robins. Coller also utilized the curriculum to launch their Safe at Home program through a CDBG grant saying, “the Executive Certificate in Home Modification course has provided the platform to build the program on.”

“USC has a long history of working together with Rebuilding Together. Now more than ever, their contributions to ensuring vulnerable individuals can live safely and independently at home are critical,” says Julie Overton, Senior Learning and Development Specialist at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “We are proud to have the affiliates participate in our training program and look forward to our continued partnership.” 

Rebuilding Together is committed to providing opportunities for continuous learning and advanced skill training to improve the quality of our services and grow our programs in the most needed areas. “Being able to live in a safe and accessible home as you age has never been more important, especially during COVID-19. We are so grateful to have partners like USC to provide individualized, rigorous training to our affiliate leaders and help us develop impactful home modification services in our communities,” said Caroline Blakely, President and CEO of Rebuilding Together.