With her home now mold-free, insulated and more resilient, Nekicia Luckett feels good about her home and her future. “I feel safe and secure. I’m not going to have any problems, she says. “Now I feel like I can invite people over. I have a nice cozy home,” she says about the house she’s owned in Portland’s Cully neighborhood since 2005. “It’s unbelievable. Sometimes I think ‘Wow! How did this happen?’ I’m just really blessed. It’s amazing.”
Country Inside the City
Since Nekicia bought the 1982 ranch-style house located in a tranquil, tree-filled corner of the Cully neighborhood, the area has grown into a familiar and comfortable place. “It’s a good neighborhood, I call it the country inside the city. There’s a forest in my front view, a log cabin in the back. I can see the sunrise on the East side. It’s really relaxing being here,” she says.
Nekicia’s large yard is lined with trees, rhododendrons and roses and she keeps a garden patch with strawberries, tomatoes, and several herbs. The narrow streets and big yards in the area, including a property across the street with 60 mature trees, add to the country-like atmosphere.
She describes a neighborhood with a sense of community. “My mom used to live around the corner. My 20-year-old son loves it still. He basically grew up here with all the boys in the neighborhood. We all know each other here,” she says. “I used to work at Rigler Elementary School, ust five blocks away, so I got to know a lot of the people in my neighborhood.”
Cully has been changing. “People are making a lot of improvements. I see a lot of gardens in front yards. I see a lot of people walking their dogs and jogging up and down the street. Compared to what it was like before, this is a healthier community,” Nekicia says. “Before, there were quite a few squatters,” she says, gesturing to an alley next to her yard that used to be overgrown. “We would see remnants from meth use and addicts all around, but not anymore.”
Water and Mold Wreak Havoc
In November 2016, Nekicia, a teacher, was in between jobs, having just returned from work in Macau and Hong Kong. She’d not yet landed her current teaching job at Ventura Park Elementary School in East Portland.
“The issue came up when a pipe burst. I would hear this “shhh” sound in my bathroom. People told me not to worry about it,” Nekicia says. “But one morning, when it was cold outside, it was really hot in the bathroom. I called my friend to come look around and see what the issue could be. That’s when we found out that a pipe had burst and there was excessive mold down in the crawlspace.” The friend showed Nekicia photos of the mold, prompting her to take action.
After working with a plumber to fix the pipe, Nekicia wanted to take care of the mold, but wasn’t sure where to turn. “I called mold remediation companies and they told me it would be $1,500 to $5,000. Because the estimates were so wide in range, I felt like I would be cheated. I could not afford to pay for those costs at the time, anyway,” she recalls.
Cully Weatherization Funding ‘a Godsend’
Nekicia asked people she knew about programs that might be able to help. Her mother told her about NAYA Family Center, which administered Cully Weatherization grants. These grants fund home repair and no-to-low-cost energy efficiency upgrades for homeowners unable to afford the work on their own.
Enhabit coordinated the home assessment and weatherization with contractor Good Energy Retrofit. The company assessed the whole house and formed an action plan to address the mold infestation and prevent future mold with a number of critical home repairs and upgrades.
After her acceptance to the program, Good Energy Retrofit came back to do the work, including sub-contracting mold removal, fixing plumbing, insulating the floor, replacing rotted siding and leaky windows, and adding flashing to keep water out. They also added ventilation and a sump pump to better deal with future moisture buildup.
“They fixed everything, even problems that I had no idea existed, like the absence of flashing. The work Good Energy Retrofit and contractors did was excellent. I’m completely satisfied,” Nekicia says. “I never would have been able to get it done alone.”
Nekicia appreciated Good Energy Retrofit’s approach and communication. “They really stuck by their word, and it got done in a reasonable amount of time. It looks sturdy and it is. When it rains I don’t have to worry about water leaking into my house.”
Reflecting on the Cully Weatherization grants, Nekicia says she sees the need in her community. “This program is very necessary for our neighborhood. Most of us just have regular jobs. We don’t have a lot of savings. I’m lucky to be a homeowner. To be able to get some help to keep our houses maintained is a godsend.”