Decent housing is a basic need for everyone. Habitat for Humanity is a great organization, working to eliminate substandard housing world-wide (BTW, thanks for the build-a-thon donations!) In the U.S., that's largely done through building new homes which are sold to low-income people currently paying too much of their income to rent sub-standard housing.
But a trip around Oakland or pretty much any city will show you a large stock of homes of another sort. These aren't people who are about to lose their homes because of sub-prime mortgages, or who bought something bigger than they can afford, or are paying most of their income for rent. These are people who own their homes, and have worked hard to purchase them. But because of age, illness, and/or income level haven't been able to maintain and improve their homes. That's where Rebuilding Together (RTO) comes in.
There's a list of problems with the house, but the first problem was getting in to work on them. Every time any of Mildred's children moved, it was: "Hey mom, can I keep some of my stuff there? I'll get it later." Add to that donations collected for church and the homeless in her neighborhood. Add to that 30+ years of "stuff" from living there. So most of us spent the morning moving stuff from the house and storage in the backyard to 3 piles: (1) keep (2) donate or (3) dumpster. Fortunately several of her children (and one grandchild) were there to help sort through things. Unfortunately some of the stuff was water-damaged, so the dumpster pile was pretty big. But we set aside various items, and several different scrap haulers took at least one and half pickup loads to the scrapyard instead.
There's still a lot of work to do, but we made good progress on repairing Mildred's home and making it safer and more comfortable for her, too. Rebuilding Together Oakland also works throughout the year with their Safe-At-Home & Energy Efficiency program. As with Habitat, you don't have to be skilled, but if you do have skills that's always a bonus! I'll be volunteering later in April (after the build-a-thon), but I'm not sure if I'll be assigned to Mildred's house or another.