The Cowlitz Tribe Weatherization Program
Northwest Region 10
Jerry Hause, Weatherization Auditor/Inspector, Cowlitz Tribe
As the leader of Washington’s first low-income Native American Weatherization Assistance Program, Jerry Hause is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Cowlitz Tribe members. His mission is clear; he wishes to close the gap between weatherization and indoor air quality through outreach, mentorship and partnership-building. Through his work, Jerry has brought about uplifting results for his tribal members.
Read more about the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s Weatherization Assistance Program -www.cowlitz.org/offices/citwap.html
Since becoming a certified weatherization auditor/inspector in November 2005 and a Building Analyst Professional in October 2008, Jerry has helped Cowlitz members make small changes to create healthier homes and helped other tribes to conduct certification training and to creatively fund their own environmental health programs.
“Weatherization and indoor air quality are one and the same – completely interchangeable. I walk into a home to make external changes to improve energy efficiency and durability, but I end up making internal changes to improve indoor air quality too. The sense of pride in Cowlitz households is definitely linked to the quality of their homes, inside and out.” Jerry Hause
- Program Summary
- Key Strategies
The Cowlitz Weatherization Program was established in 2005 as the result of a partnership with the Bonneville Power Association (BPA) and the Northwest Tribal Energy Coordinators Association (NWTECA), an organization comprised of Northwest federally recognized tribes. NWTECA and BPA were looking for ways to provide weatherization assistance to low-income Native American communities that were not receiving Community Action Program (CAP) services. Though CAP agencies aimed to serve tribal members in need of their help, without the trust of Cowlitz Tribe members, they made little headway in achieving their goal. After meeting with Cowlitz leadership, the need for a tribal based weatherization program became clear. With funding from the Bonneville Power Association, the tribe was able to train and certify a weatherization auditor/inspector through the Northwest Energy Education Institute.
Making weatherization upgrades in tribal members’ homes, such as insulating ceilings, sealing windows and doors, fixing leaks and repairing air ducts, the Cowlitz Weatherization Program quickly realized the importance of connecting their work with indoor air quality. Moisture from water leaks creates mold, which is an asthma trigger. Air entering homes from under the kitchen sink, where cleaning solvents and chemicals are usually kept, pollutes the air with hazardous chemicals. They helped families understand that they weren’t just fixing water leaks and air sealing drafty cabinets; they were improving the health of their homes, inside and out. They began providing educational materials about indoor air quality to homeowners so they could learn about other simple changes that could add up to big differences in their home’s health. By connecting the dots between weatherization and indoor air quality, the Cowlitz Weatherization Program created a recipe for success.
Cowlitz built strong partnerships with CAP agencies, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, and the U.S. Department of Energy, allowing them to bridge the gap between the need for assistance in tribal homes at the local level and the financial support available at the state and federal levels. Engaging outside groups empowered Cowlitz to form their own initiative tailored to their community’s needs, giving them independence in the delivery of weatherization and indoor air quality assistance to tribal members in need. This allowed the Cowlitz Weatherization Program to extend its services to other tribes in Region 10 in need of the same assistance.
Connecting indoor air quality and weatherization expands the Cowlitz Weatherization Program’s opportunities for funding through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture. It also saves them time and resources by addressing related issues in a single visit and helps tribal members understand the relationship between the indoor environment and their health.
Jerry Hause of the Cowlitz Weatherization Program conducts a home audit as an aspiring professional from another tribe looks on.
With the only Native American certified weatherization auditor/inspector and BPI Building Analyst Professional in all of Region 10, the Cowlitz Weatherization Program faced a challenge of scale; the number of homes that needed weatherization and indoor air quality assistance outnumbered their resources. Cowlitz and the Bonneville Power Administration approached other tribes in the region about how they could assist them in creating their own programs. They provided training, job shadowing and support for would-be professionals to take the Building Analyst Professional Certification test, a required certification to begin independent weatherization programs. Supporting the development of individual programs in other tribes requires a great deal of time commitment, but the result is a more expansive community of IAQ and weatherization programs and a greater network of families receiving the help they need to maintain healthy and energy-efficient homes.
The Cowlitz Weatherization Program also empowers the people living in the homes they help to improve. Home auditors/inspectors don’t just make repairs and improvements; they provide educational materials to household members about indoor air quality and talk to them about the connections between the quality of the air and the repairs they make. The materials also include information about small changes residents can make to maintain healthier air in their homes after Cowlitz auditors/inspectors have left. On follow-up visits, auditors/inspectors often notice that the residents have been inspired to make other changes to improve their home’s health.
When Jerry represented the Cowlitz Weatherization Program at a training event in Seattle, he connected with other professionals who were working on indoor air quality and initiating healthy homes movements in their tribes. He explained his work with the Cowlitz Weatherization Program and their holistic approach to improving tribal members’ homes. Inspired, they set about creating a regional initiative to support their collective efforts. They applied for an EPA grant to create the Healthy Homes Working Group. Since then, Cowlitz has presented to Working Group members about the connection between indoor air quality and weatherization. By sharing their work, the Cowlitz Weatherization Program is able to promote change on a larger scale and influence the way that weatherization and indoor air quality issues are addressed in other tribal programs.
The Cowlitz Weatherization Program has clear goals in mind for the future. The first is job creation. Cowlitz is currently training three tribal members to perform weatherization repairs. Not only will this help to make the program sustainable, it will also keep program funding within the community, creating a positive feedback loop for weatherization and indoor air quality improvements. The second goal is mentorship. Cowlitz is continuing to support training for tribes in Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho to help them develop independent weatherization and indoor air quality programs. They are also supporting the development of healthy homes initiatives through the Healthy Homes Working Group. Finally, the Cowlitz Weatherization Program plans to work to establish more direct lines of funding, giving other tribes more freedom to build holistic programs like theirs.