Winter is among us. Temperatures are dropping below freezing every night across the entire metro area, and heating bills will rise again. But, Lakewood has partnered with a group that, if a family or house’s income qualifies, could help save money on all utilities.
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That group is Mile High Youth Corps, which does free energy and water audits for low-income households. Corps members will assess a home and replace inefficient light bulbs, aerators in kitchen and bathroom sinks and shower heads immediately, making a difference that same day.
“Corps members are going into homes and replacing and working hand-in-hand with the residents to sort of educate them on basic understandings of sustainability in their home,” said Jeslin Shahrezaei, Lakewood City Councilor and Chief Development and Communications Officer for Mile High Youth Corps.
Members are 18-24 young adults that want to expand their experience with green jobs, she explained.
“They will have total training here with everything from toilet installation to climate education,” she said.
A lot of those members, like Christian Giles who recently graduated from University of Denver studying environmental science, see it as a way to give back to his community at the same time as helping the environment.
“You can actually make a difference in people’s lives while you’re helping to reduce some of those negative effects of these issues we're facing with our environment — like sustainability and conservation,” Giles said.
These assessments, coming about a week after setting up an appointment according to Shahrezae, take only about 30-40 minutes, Giles said. Corps members replace inefficient light bulbs, aerators in kitchen and bathroom sinks and shower heads immediately, possibly coming back again to replace an inefficient toilet or mercury thermostat.
“You can just see how grateful they are, just for something as simple as some light bulbs, and they know it will save them money,” he said.
They also check the efficiency of toilets and thermostats, which may take another day’s appointment to change out, and educate on best principles for sustainability and saving money — like how best to use a programmable thermostat.
Shahrezaei said the income qualification is comparable to SNAP — if a household qualifies for one, they will for the other. She also referenced Colorado’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program, or LEAP, which assists with winter heating costs. Enrollment started Nov. 1, and she said income qualifications are also similar.
The City Council approved direct funding for the program for the first time over the summer, previously working with the Corps before, but never directly putting money aside according to Shahrezaei. It was part of the City’s Community Development Block Grant program, with the funding starting this fall.
“Everybody we’re working with, you can tell they really care about what they’re doing, and I think that’s what really drives it home for me,” Giles said. “Knowing that you’re also working with a bunch of people that care as much about the job as you do — they’re not just there for the check.”
Appointments can be scheduled on the Mile High Youth Corps’ website.
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