Volunteers Shore Up Homes For Navajo Homeowners

Jul 11, 2018, 10:00 PM | Updated: 10:36 pm

NAVAJO NATION, Utah – The wind whips across the Navajo Nation in Utah and rips apart the homes.

For 18 years, the state of Utah and dozens of volunteers have helped families fortify their homes against the harsh winds, sandstorms and blistering sun.

In an exclusive tour, KSL-TV saw how those weatherization upgrades are changing lives and helping Navajo families.

“The wind here gets really brutal,” said Sadie Silas, a Navajo woman who has lived in her home on the reservation for 50 years with the wind whipping away at the modest, one-story structure.

“It would leak through the crevices of the house and it would get bad.”

That’s what more than 100 Christian youth volunteers with Group Mission Trips discovered when they gathered at the Navajo Nation last month.

“It didn’t look like it was going to last more than two more years before collapsing,” said Billy Zhao, a volunteer from Massachusetts.

Zhao and others from states across the country rolled up their sleeves and fixed roofs, siding and soffits on 17 homes in the Navajo Nation in Utah.

“It was both kind of thrilling and dangerous,” he said of the job. “But, we all know we were doing it for a good cause.”

The volunteers learned valuable carpentry, painting and construction skills while helping strangers upgrade their houses to ward off the worst of the weather.

“It makes you feel much better about what you’re doing and gives you more of a drive to do it faster and more efficiently,” Zhao said.

Homeowners said the summer heat is brutal. The winter cold can be bitter, but when the wind blows, everything is sandblasted. Their roofs and siding take a beating.

Supervisors of the construction said a good roof will last only 10 years on the reservation. The metal roofs they installed can last 30 to 50 years.

“It can make decades worth of difference, up to 20 years difference on the life of the roof,” said Jonathan Hardy, Division Director of Housing and Community Development in the Department of Workforce Services.

“It’s helping them survive, literally,” said Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox.

“They need our help, and that’s who we are,” said Cox.

One homeowner who spoke with Cox during the tour told him she could not afford her electric bill.

“The wind was blowing through her house,” he said. “So, getting some insulation, getting a new roof and getting new windows, now she can afford to live there and raise her four kids.”

“It’s just uplifting,” said Arwa Jafri, a volunteer from California. She and others helped tear down old siding, install new siding and paint it. The work they did helped seal the house for the homeowner.

“The smile on her face just makes it worth it all,” she said. “It’s certainly a community that has some housing needs,” said Hardy.

The state uses federal grants, private donations and volunteer help to make the home upgrades. Utah pays for materials and supervisors.

“We weatherize these homes, make them more sustainable for the future, and lower the energy costs,” said Hardy. “We get a lot of bang for our buck to make sure these homes can last a long time.”

“I think it’s great,” said Raymanda Sam, who got new siding and paint on the house her father built. She said the exterior needed work.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox with Sadie Silas, a Navajo homeowner

“Real bad. It was to the point where you couldn’t see the paint anymore,” she said.

She likes the new color and the weather-proofing.

“I felt like I had to help them,” she said. “So, I went out and helped.”

It’s a program that is changing lives for homeowners and volunteers, said the lieutenant governor.

“They will never be the same because of this experience,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


Tuffy (the dog) gazing up at the Milky Way over Metate Arch in Grand Staircase-Escalante National M...
Brooke Williams

Free-entry to all national parks and monuments Saturday

National Parks free entry on September 24.
5 days ago
Jed Boal

Researchers say air pollution is getting inside, recommend MERV 13 filter

In Utah, we know a lot about our outdoor air quality, but not as much about the air quality inside our homes, schools and buildings. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall got that conversation started Tuesday.
2 months ago
Angels Landing Zion National Park...
Larry D. Curtis

KSL’s Chopper 5 and photojournalist document Utah’s unique beauty

Utah's unique geography, that includes mountains, deserts, lakes and snow, bring visitors from around the world. KSL photojournalist Meghan Thackrey is part of a team that documents news on KSL TV's Chopper 5, giving her some pretty unique landscapes and geographic features to record.
4 months ago
The logo for Utah's Treasure Hunt 2022. (Credit: onthejohn)...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

‘Utah’s Treasure Hunt’ gives out its first clue for the $20,000 prize

'Utah's Treasure Hunt' has released their first clue and a general area to look at for its $20,00 grand prize.
4 months ago
The bodies of Kylen Schulte (left) and Crystal Turner (right) were found near the La Sal Loop Road,...
Eliza Pace, KSL TV

Suspect named in Grand County double homicides of Turner, Schulte

Grand County Sheriff's Office named a suspect in the double homicide of Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner. The suspect was identified as Adam Pinkusiewicz, who is dead.
5 months ago
An overlook of the Colorado River from Dead Horse Point State Park in eastern Utah. (Larry D. Curti...

Earth Day: Humanity proves it can clean up messes, repair damage

As bad as the environment seems with climate change and other pollution, scientists say humanity has also done a pretty good job of cleaning up past messes. More than 25 experts shared their favorite ecological success stories for Earth Day. The overwhelming No. 1 success story is the healing of Earth’s ozone hole. Experts credit […]
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
Volunteers Shore Up Homes For Navajo Homeowners