Phoenix affordable-housing complex gets a new look thanks to union volunteers

Claire Cleveland, The Republic | azcentral.com

 Some of the laborers from the Laborer's Local Union #383 volunteered their time to paint and landscape Whispering Sands affordable housing in north Phoenix, April 27, 2016. (Photo: Claire Cleveland / The Republic)

Some of the laborers from the Laborer's Local Union #383 volunteered their time to paint and landscape Whispering Sands affordable housing in north Phoenix, April 27, 2016. (Photo: Claire Cleveland / The Republic)

Local labor unions joined together Wednesday and volunteered their time to beautify and update the Whispering Sands affordable housing complex in Sunnyslope.

More than 20 volunteers from six different unions came out to paint the four buildings, near 13th Street and East Mountain View Road, which have been owned by the Labor's Community Service Agency for almost 20 years, Stephen Sparks, LCSA development manager, said.

The complex can house about 18 families at a time.

"We want to support families who are really struggling right now and give them the support they need to move forward and get out of the economic crisis or circumstances they're in," Sparks said.

Labor’s Community Service Agency, a non-profit established in 1974, was built on a partnership between the United Way and AFL-CIO to provide outreach and referral services to union members.

The housing complex, which consists of four large buildings containing four different two-bedroom units, was painted and landscaped.

Half of the new canary-yellow paint used for the update was donated by Dunn Edwards Paint, and the remaining half was purchased at a discount. The complex also was landscaped with 150 tons of gravel donated by Red Mountain Mining Inc.

More help needed

 Lori Weathersby, a Whispering Sands tenant, volunteered to aid in the renovations and is excited about the changes. (Photo: Claire Cleveland / The Republic)

Lori Weathersby, a Whispering Sands tenant, volunteered to aid in the renovations and is excited about the changes. (Photo: Claire Cleveland / The Republic)

While LCAS was able to get donations to cover these beautifications, the non-profit has not been able to find a good bid or a donation to fix the roofs. Two of the four buildings are in need of new roofing, Sparks said. He is asking local businesses to contact LCAS if they have a good offer or a donation.

"You only have to look around here to see how important this is and what it means — it means a lot," Michael Broadhead, a member of Transport Workers Union Local 556 and co-chair of Pride at Work-Arizona, said. "It's pretty cool to see the people that live here watching this transition today and watching this massive upgrade."

One of those tenants, Lori Weathersby, who has lived at Whispering Sands for just over three months, volunteered her time to help update the complex. She said she is excited about the renovations.

"This is an awesome experience," Weathersby said. "I'm a single mom, so I have the opportunity to just do what I have to do — what I need to do — with the help of LCSA."

Whispering Sands is priced at about half the market rate for similar apartments, giving single-income and low-wage families a place to call home while they get stable jobs or look for higher pay.

The housing complex is for both people who are transitional (those who are coming from a homeless shelter and need housing until they get back on their feet) and for those seeking long-term affordable housing (those who have a salary that is 80 percent below the median salary).

Whispering Sands houses between 100 and 110 families, nearly 500 individuals, every year.

Weathersby said Whispering Sands has made a huge difference for her and her children. She said she is grateful for the updates to her community, one she has grown to love.

"This is a family-oriented unit, everybody's together as one, we take care of each other," she said.

 Whispering Sands affordable housing in North Phoenix was painted and landscaped by volunteers from local labor unions April 27, 2016 in Phoenix, Ariz. (Photo: Claire Cleveland / The Republic)

Whispering Sands affordable housing in North Phoenix was painted and landscaped by volunteers from local labor unions April 27, 2016 in Phoenix, Ariz. (Photo: Claire Cleveland / The Republic)

Original source: AZ Central