Archive for August, 2009


Oh Happy Day!! My first client has a home. This day came MUCH sooner than expected thanks to a brand new non-profit organization that provides long-term transitional housing for Seniors. They are called Lavender Communities, based in Oakland, California and just opened in April of this year.

My client is simply beside herself with excitement and she is not alone! Because of the absolute lack of appropriate transitional housing and the 1-7 year wait lists for permanent housing, I did not expect to get her housed for quite some time.

This transitional, independent housing accepts seniors 65 and older for a period of up to 5 years as long as they are on wait lists for permanent housing and have a housing counselor. The unit is a quaint house in residential neighborhood in Oakland with 3 bedrooms. Tenants have shared use of the bathroom, kitchen and furnished living areas in addition to a washer and dryer. There is even a backyard patio lined with rose bushes.

This is the transitional home we found for our first client

This is the transitional home we found for our first client

As this is the first and only unit for Lavender Communities, we were luck to get in before it filled. Business is just starting to pick up for them as they get their name out. Many thanks to Mike McGinley at Curry Senior Center for the tip!!

We will help my client with a deposit and help her move in this week. As an added note, my client is now on several wait lists for Senior Communities and on the road to permanent housing!


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I sent off 6 housing applications last week for one of my clients at VeraMax. Our fingers are crossed that one of these leads will come through. In the process of searching for housing for this client, I have slowly formed a picture of the current housing situation for our homeless seniors and it looks bleak.

They cannot, or should not, be placed in mixed age housing due to their vulnerability. As Michael McGinley, at the Curry Senior Center, put it, “everyone in that building knows the amount of money that senior is getting each month.” They are more vulnerable to abuse of many kinds and are frequent victims. So, my search has primarily been for Senior or gender specific housing.

Permanent housing exists but is an exercise in patience. Waiting lists for Senior housing units can be from 1-7 years. Those facilities themselves, however, are excellent and often provide services such as coordinated activities, exercise rooms, transportation and occasionally case managers or medical services on-site. Most of these residences with open wait lists are in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and not in the City itself.

Because of the wait time and the time it takes to go through the process of finding housing, transitional housing and shelters are necessary. Transitional Housing for seniors is literally non-existent which leaves shelters as the only option for temporary housing. There is one shelter with some of their beds designated for seniors. The Sanctuary, run by Episcopal Community Services, gives seniors earlier access, optional programs and daily hot lunch at their senior center.

In most shelters, a senior will need to leave the facility early in the morning, come back in the afternoon to reserve her bed for the evening, and then not be able to return to the facility until that evening. For an elderly women using a walker, this can be quite the task. In the past, there was an exception for seniors allowing them to reserve a bed for a week at a time. Unfortunately, due to program and funding cuts, other shelters in the city are no longer accommodating seniors.

Because there are no designated senior beds, sometimes a senior in a wheelchair is assigned a top bunk. They must show up early to wait hours to be assigned a bed, are given a room in a place across town with no transportation, given no meals, and must then return to the previous organization the next day to start the whole process over again.

It seems the largest challenge in serving our clients at VeraMax will be finding them housing. I remain hopeful and optimistic, however, that learning to navigate the systems and networking within the community, along with a healthy dose of creativity and resourcefulness, will lead to more promising results for our clients. I’m willing to bet that those stated wait times may have more bark than bite.

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Mid-Summer Update

It has been a very full 2 months now since VeraMax opened up shop. In that time, I’ve worked to establish a solid foundation for this new organization. No simple task or large project has been accomplished with ease, but I’ve made some really good headway! Here is a bit about what I’ve been working on:

  • Creating a comprehensive resource book
  • Compiling an extensive housing list and reference guide of housing subsidy programs
  • Networking: face-to-face meetings with staff or directors at nine local organizations that provide services to the homeless
  • Working to create partnerships with local organizations
  • Setting up operations (everything from organizing a file cabinet to creating letterhead)
  • Finding and reading research on target population
  • Building a caseload of clients: providing therapy, directing them to resources and working hard to find them housing
  • Creating marketing materials

Hard at work!Through all this work, I’m starting to formulate a picture of the housing situation for this population, their specific needs and their challenges. All of this is will be informing us as to the direction we need to head in the present and the future.

Hard work but good for the soul to know that we are well on our way to helping these women transition off the streets and into the life they deserve.

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