OGDEN -- Dixie Story knows exactly how overwhelming the job of cleaning up a meth house can be.
That's because she purchased one about five years ago in North Ogden and then had it torn down, just so her grandchildren wouldn't have to walk past the dilapidated house, and the people who had been renting it, on their way to school.
Story, a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis Counties, said she called authorities and she couldn't get anyone to help with the problem. She ran through a long list of demolition companies before she found one that had experience with such houses and could help.
"When we talked to the pharmacist, he said it was dangerous," Story said.
That's why she's impressed with a new Habitat for Humanity Utah initiative that will transform these problem homes into affordable places of residence for those with low incomes. In the past, Habitat for Humanity programs have focused on building houses from the ground up.
"I'm amazed that Habitat would take this on," Story said. "I'm amazed every time I see the many people who are willing to donate their time and their products to help better the community."
The program is called the Meth House Rebuild project. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert recently signed the Utah initiative into law.
The program will be funded by donations from Utah businesses and the community.
Residents were asked to donate on their tax forms this year and will be asked again next year. Currently, the initiative is being done on a trial basis.
If enough people agree to donate as they fill out their tax forms, the opportunity to help in that way will continue, said Joel Lee, incoming president of Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis Counties.
This year's tax donations won't be received until November, Lee said.
But it will take that long for his group to get set up to begin the project anyway.
"We have to apply for a list of houses through the GRAMA Act," he said.
But Lee said the effort will definitely be worth whatever his group puts into the program.
"We've tried very hard to find low-cost lots," Lee said, noting that recipients of Habitat for Humanity houses have to repay any costs outside of donations associated with their houses.
"In Davis County, we're especially limited because of high value," he said. "We sometimes have to spend $50,000 for a lot."
But with this program, Lee said, he sees an opportunity to get lots and houses for a much lower cost, giving the program opportunities to expand.
"If we can get into houses that are already built that we could just decontaminate, we could serve more families," he said.
Lee said his program often gets as many as 50 applications for one home.