Veach keeps residents’ homes in repair
Jeff Veach is the city of Kent’s handyman for homeowners who cannot afford minor repairs.
Veach, a city home-repair specialist, does projects that range from changing shower heads and light bulbs to building patio decks and wheelchair ramps for low- to moderate-income homeowners.
“I love it if I can help people out,” Veach said Tuesday, from a small city shop on West Smith Street before heading out in a city home repair van on another call. “They’re so thankful. It makes me feel good to know the program is reaching out and helping.”
To be eligible for the service, residents must have owned their home for at least one year and can’t have exceeded federal-income guidelines. The service is funded through the federal Community Development Block Grant program. Kent has been a part of the grant program since 1978.
Residents must apply to the city for the service. City officials give preference to senior citizens, low-income and disabled residents. The city provided service to 150 homes last year, with return calls for additional repairs to several of the residences.
Veach and Darrel Hammack, city home repair coordinator, do all of the minor repairs. Plumbing, electrical work and bigger projects are contracted to south county businesses, although Hammack and Veach have installed new roofs.
Veach, 45, who has worked the city job for 10 years, has become close to many of the people he serves.
“They become more than clients,” Veach said. “They become friends. And when they pass away, it hurts. I’ve known some of them for 10 years. Some I’ve helped since day one.”
Applications by residents for the program are approved through the city Housing and Human Services department. Veach and Hammack then receive an appointment to inspect the house and evaluate more than 40 items, including attics, furnaces, windows and doors, to see what repairs might be needed. Once they’ve done that, they’ll fit out a work order.
Veach’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
“He’s a great fit and works well with clients,” Hammack said of Veach. “He understands their needs and listens to what they say. He provides the service he would want someone to provide to his mom or grandma.”
Residents often have a tough time understanding that the service is free. Even though they have little money, some residents who use the service want to give $5 or more to Veach for his work.
“Some try to offer money,” Veach said. “I tell them we can take cookies, but we can’t take money. We go back the next day for cookies.”
A few people try to get Veach to do more than the program allows.
“It’s not a wish list,” Veach said. “We can’t add a room or put in new carpet if there’s nothing wrong with it. But 99.9 percent of the clients are very nice and grateful for the program.”
Veach started in the home-repair field growing up in Renton because his father ran a home-remodeling business. He joined his father on the job, but didn’t want to take over when his father retired 10 years ago. Since his father performed contract work for the city of Kent, Veach applied for a home-repair specialist job with the city.
Outside of work, Veach, who lives in Kent, drag races a 1969 Mustang Mach I on the Northwest Racing Association pro stock circuit. He races about twice a month from March to September at tracks in Kent, Bremerton and Woodburn, Ore. He has reached speeds of 143 mph and covered the course in 9.62 seconds.
“Most are into football; I’m into motors,” Veach said, of most guys. “I’ve won a few races, but I lose more than I win. I do not have enough money to go fast.”
Veach, who is remarried with four adult children, also owns a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He has made about 10 trips over the last dozen years to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
But while he enjoys drag racing and riding his Harley, he also gets plenty of satisfaction on his job.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Veach said. “It’s not your average job, where you do the same thing day after day. The rewards are the job is constantly changing and in the good people you meet.”
For more information about the city’s home-repair program, call 253-856-5065 or go to www.ci.kent.wa.us/humanservices.
Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.