Ms. A heard about Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) through her church, and she decided it was time to reach out.
“My roof was leaking. There were two sun lights that were also damaged on the roof. I had to put pots and buckets out to catch the rain…And there was no way I could afford to get it fixed.”
According to the National Aging in Place Council, over 90% of seniors say that they would prefer to age in place instead of moving into senior housing, but because older adults are more likely to live on a fixed income and experience limited mobility, they often have substantial housing repair and social support needs.
In Maryland, one in four households with residents 85 years or older and one in five households with residents aged 65-74 pay at least half of their fixed income on housing. In Baltimore City, 17% of all older adults over the age of 65 live below the poverty level.
Concerned for the wellbeing of older Baltimoreans, a coalition of service providers and funders came together to create the Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) initiative – a network of organizations with a shared mission of helping older homeowners in Baltimore age in place.
Another partnership, Safe & Healthy Homes, founded in 2021, serves legacy homeowners who have been in their home for ten years or more, as well as homeowners over 65 in Central Baltimore.
Reducing the displacement of both older and legacy homeowners is foundational to strong, healthy, and stable neighborhoods.
Hundreds of older Baltimore neighbors like Ms. A are receiving home repairs and holistic support through service providers including St. Ambrose.
“When you get to a certain age these situations really wear on you. I have peace of mind now, and I didn’t have any peace when my roof was leaking. There has been so much rain lately. I thank God for my new roof.”
St. Ambrose provides not only home repairs, but also will preparation services (to ensure the homes safe passage to heirs) and case management to support older homeowners and legacy homeowners so they can obtain resources like energy assistance and assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Comprehensive, holistic services enable homeowners to resolve a variety of issues, including legal issues threatening their housing, issues affecting their ability to afford housing payments, and issues influencing safety and habitability.
These services include home modifications to facilitate safety and health (the installation of stair lifts, grab bars, railings, shower chairs, roof and furnace repair), and legal advice to avoid the threat of foreclosure or the threat of tax sale. They also ensure that the critical asset of the home can stay in the client’s family, helping to stabilize neighborhoods and build intergenerational wealth.
Our older and legacy neighbors do so much to strengthen our communities, and St. Ambrose is honored to be one of many Baltimore organizations coming together to support and invest in our neighbors and in the strength, stability and wellbeing of our communities.
A huge thanks to Ms. A for sharing her home repair experience with us and for Ms. W for sharing the stair lift photo.
Last year, when her bachelor uncle died, Sharon McIntire found herself the owner of one more house than she needed. The northeast Baltimore house was one she knew well, and it was full of memories. “My grandparents bought it during the Depression, and my mother and my uncle grew up in that house. My uncle was about 4 years old when they moved in and he lived there for more than 8o years. He loved that house,” she said. “I wanted someone to enjoy the house as he did.” She, however, had a house of her own. She considered the alternatives: give it to her grown children to fix up, auction it, sell to a real estate investor. None of the choices felt right. Then she hit upon another idea: Why not donate it to a nonprofit housing group? While driving one day, Sharon had seen a sign in front of a renovated home that identified St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center. She gave St. Ambrose a call to ask if they would be interested in a house. David Sann, Director of Housing Development, looked at the house and saw a win-win situation. St. Ambrose would acquire a house that it could renovate and sell, increasing its value and helping stabilize its neighborhood. The proceeds from the sale will generate income St. Ambrose can use to renovate more homes, and Sharon gets to deduct the sale price as a charitable deduction.
“We rarely accept offers of houses,” he said, “because typically people want to donate what they can’t sell. But this house was different. It needed work, but it had value.” Sharon has visited the house several times to see the renovation in progress. “My husband and I want to come by when it’s done to see how it looks.” She believes donating the house was the right way to honor her uncle’s memory. “My uncle would have liked that,” she says. “He was a very generous man, who gave to everyone who asked him for help. I think he’d be happy to know we gave it so that some other people will get to enjoy it.”
This past Saturday, I took a trip to Fells Point. Now, I live in Waverly so I don’t know if Fells Point qualifies as a trip, it is only 15 minutes away but…I have to park and then deal with the tourists, the horror, it was Red Sox fans this week, However, the Sound Garden was absolutely worth it. I needed some music and the Sound Garden has it all. One stop shopping, love it. And that is what I love about our city life. Farmers Market in the morning, quick trip to Fells Point and 15 minutes later, I am playing golf at Clifton Park for $33.
Which leads me to Thomas Friedman’s editorial in the New York Times this Sunday. ….. “if you want to be an optimist about America today, stand on your head. The country looks so much better from the bottom up — from its major metropolitan areas — than from the top down. Washington is tied in knots…. hyper-partisanship, lobbyists and budget constraints. Ditto most state legislatures. So the great laboratories and engines of our economy are now our cities. This is the conclusion of an important new book by the Brookings Institution scholars Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, entitled: The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy.…. Cities and metropolitan areas are becoming the leaders in the nation: experimenting, taking risks, making hard choices.” We are seeing “the inversion of the hierarchy of power in the United States.” http://nyti.ms/13ZsVXH
For those of us committed to the idea of community development and neighborhood stabilization, our time has come. Good thing we have been steadily making inroads and building foundations over decades. We are in an enviable position.