Meet Ron Rambo, When he’s not working on his dream he’s hanging out at Square One coffee with his motley crew of companions or down at the local farmers market catching up with pals and getting some shopping in.
Ron was born with Cerebral Palsy, as a child this limited his ability to walk and control parts of his body. Since a young adult he has been in a wheelchair exclusively and since then has always made do with less than desirable conditions in small city apartments – which he has never been able to modify quite to his needs. Ron is a section 8, low-income renter which further limits his selection of housing – However it turned out the renting program offers a home ownership option. Between the program and a little bit of fundraising we thought we could pull this off.
That’s how the project started. It happened that Ron’s parents had a small lot of land on the street behind their house in the city, which they were willing to let him build on. Later Ron was introduced to Max, who is a green-oriented architect. Ron understood and liked the idea of a house that would not harm the planet and still offer him everything he needs. Project Ramboland was born.
A Letter from Ron:
Hi Everyone, I’d love to share with you the story behind my housing project..
I lived at the home of my parents, Joyce and Donald Killian, until 1997 when I was 36 years old.
After I moved into Lancaster House North on North Prince Street in 2003, I won a lottery to get on the waiting list for a portable section 8 housing voucher. After re-applying every year for 5-years I finally got notice that I was eligible for the voucher back in August of 2009.
I started looking for an apartment with my new voucher, but it would not be an easy pursuit as I had no luck in finding an apartment right away or a landlord willing to rent to me. For example, in the case of one apartment the housing authority said it cost $50 too much a month and the landlord would not reduce the rent and let me pay the remainder out of pocket. I continued searching for an apartment with no luck at all.
The housing authority has a time limit for the housing search and I had to apply for extensions until they told me I was out of the program because my time was up. To get back in I had to request a reasonable accommodation to remove the time limit for the search.
As soon as I got back in to the program, I found a great landlord but not the best apartment. I decided to take it anyway, and this is where I am now, although the bathroom is not wheelchair accessible and the front door is difficult and dangerous as it is up a set of concrete stairs. Eventually, I had a ramp built so I can access the apartment from the rear door, but the bathroom is still too small for me to get in and out of the shower safely. Once a person is a section 8 renter for a year, they can apply for a home ownership program through Tabor’s Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program. When I asked for an application Tabor said I was not eligible to apply because I would not be able to fulfill their work requirement. I told Tabor that I knew that HUD does not put that restriction on people with disabilities in the federal regulations for the home ownership program, Tabor said they only knew what the housing authority told them.
So I requested another reasonable accommodation from the housing authority to waive the work requirement. Despite that, Tabor still did not change their rules but the housing authority decided to allow me to bypass the FSS program completely in order to allow me to participate in the home ownership program. Tabor did give me a credit counseling session and I completed the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership (LHOP) classes in October 2010, making me officially in the Section 8 home ownership program.
I did much research on finding an old city property and retro-fitting it for wheelchair access until one day when my mom said, “too bad you can’t find an architect and build your own place on the lot out back.” On East Mifflin St. behind my parent’s house on East End Avenue is an undeveloped lot that my parents own. So I decided to take her up on her offer and started looking for an architect.
My search for a qualified architect ended when through my aide and landscaper, Brandon Sheetz, I made the acquaintance of Max Zahniser, an architect, green building consultant and educator. Since I have met Max, we have put together a group we are calling Team Rambo.
The Team assembled by our process facilitator, Max, has been working pro bono to design and build me a home on the Mifflin Street lot. With this house we are creating a regenerative water system, pushing toward radical accessibility, LEED Platinum certification, a no-mow regenerative/permacultural landscape design, on-site energy production, pristine indoor air quality, other occupant health and comfort best-practices, and to the extent possible, using reclaimed, salvaged, and local building materials.
I’m so grateful for all that everyone on Team Rambo have done so far, and humbly request that you help them fully realize the fruits of their labor, and take this project to construction, so it can serve as a research and education tool, and a demonstration of an alternative to our entrenched special needs bureaucracy and the incredibly damaging way we develop human habitats.
Thanks for your time and best wishes to you,
Ron R Rambo