One Family's Fight for a Healthy Home


In 2015, one of the Lopez* family’s five kids went to the emergency room because his asthma was out of control.  After that happened, Healthy Homes Coalition staff member Jennifer Spiller visited and was able to help the family identify the likely sources of asthma triggers in their mobile home.  Mom learned that the chemicals she was using to clean the home contained irritants that could trigger her son’s asthma attacks. They also had a severe cockroach infestation that required extermination as well as learning new ways to store food to keep pests out.  The carpet was also old, full of years of accumulated allergens, and held moisture in the damp home.  

The Healthy Homes Coalition contracted with local contractor Cara Oosterhouse who visited the home to help replace the carpeting with a cleanable surface that would not hold allergens. She even went above and beyond and helped to fix a toilet leak.  With the addition of a dehumidifier, the home was made healthy for her son’s asthma which is now well controlled.

A couple of years later Ms. Lopez’s sister was in need of a safe and affordable place to raise her new baby. Ms. Lopez’s family came together to purchase a bigger home for her family so her sister could move into the mobile home.  They were able to find an affordable home, but it was old and had been empty for ten years.  

For the past two years, the family has been working to make their new home safe and comfortable for the kids.  With the knowledge they learned working with Healthy Homes in 2015, they knew there was a lot of work to be done.  Ms. Lopez was also inspired by carefully watching Cara work in their mobile home. With only enough money to afford materials, Ms. Lopez learned to use power tools and did the work herself.  

When they reached a point where they weren’t sure what to do next, Cara came over on her own time to help coach them through the process.  They were able to tackle the mold and water damage they knew could aggravate their son’s asthma and replaced all the floors themselves. Concerned about the potential for lead hazards, they reached out to Jenn to visit the new home.  Jenn was able to confirm that the windows and soil around the home contained high lead levels. Ms. Lopez learned a new way of cleaning that could limit exposure and is working towards applying for resources to fix the lead hazards through the City of Grand Rapids’ Get the Lead Out! program.

There were times when Ms. Lopez felt overwhelmed by the home.  She worried there was too much work to be done to make the home safe for her kids.  She says that Jenn’s kind words and encouragement kept her motivated to keep going, and she continues to make the improvements she knows will make her home safer for her family.

*Name changed for family's privacy