Fresno's Habitat for Humanity "Ramps and Rails" program

FRESNO, Calif.

When /*Douglas Berard*/ moved into his Southeast Fresno home in April, two friends constructed a makeshift ramp in the back of the house.

Berard said, "It was very nice of them, but not very safe, I've almost reeled off of it a couple of times."

Twenty years ago Douglas had a near fatal motorcycle accident at the height of his modeling and acting career, 53 surgeries later, he moves around mostly in a wheelchair, trying to learn how to walk with two reconstructed knees. He's one of hundreds in Fresno County who are in desperate need of a ramp or handrails in their homes, but can't afford them.

/*Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Tony Miranda*/ said, "We've realized that there are people who live in their homes who are trapped in their homes."

Miranda says his organization has begun looking more broadly at the needs of the Fresno community.

According to the latest U.S. Census, more than 25% of Fresno County's disabled populations live in poverty. Almost 10% of the county's population is over 65, 21.5% of them, live in poverty.

Miranda said, "A wheelchair ramp for lots of families is a high health and safety need for them and it allows them to live their life to the fullest in the home they are in."

Habitat workers and volunteers are just beginning construction on a new ramp for Berard.

Berard said, "It's gonna make me feel more secure, safe, I've had 53 surgeries, I don't want to have 53 more you know, a fall can really jack you up, whether I'm in my chair or walking."

Just like in the building of new homes for families, Habitat requires a little sweat equity or giving something back, for the elderly and disabled, the sweat equity will be appropriate to their ability.

Berard said, "Yeah, I'm gonna barbeque them a tri tip."

/*Habitat for Humanity*/ hopes to help two dozen qualified individuals with its ramps and rails program in the next year.

For more information on the "Ramps and Rails" program, contact Habitat for Humanity at 237-4102.

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