The VOA program helps in finding permanent, safe and affordable housing
By Anne Stokes
“Golden Years” are said to be the climax of the American dream; A life of hard work is rewarded with rest, relaxation, and comfort. Unfortunately, for many seniors, life is anything but golden.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, seniors make up 30% of extremely low-income tenant households under or under the Poverty Directive. This is often due to the fact that once the workforce has ended, the cost of living – especially housing and health care – continues to rise and pension income is eroded by inflation.
Keiko quit an international career with a multinational company in 2003 to look after her aging parents full-time. By the time her mother died in 2015, she had used up all of her savings and couldn’t keep up with the second mortgage they’d taken on the house to get by.
“When she died, we lost the house. That let me down, ”says Keiko. “It was the time to prepare for retirement, save up and do all of these planning tasks, but let’s face it, things don’t go as planned in real life.”
With no financial means and no home, Keiko was referred to the Senior Safe House of Volunteers of America (VOA) by Adult Protective Services. There, VOA helped her get back on her feet and find affordable rental accommodation.
The Senior Safe House offers 30 days of accommodation, meals and support for up to six seniors. It is operated in partnership with Adult Protective Services and works to put seniors like Keiko in permanent, safe situations.
But with COVID-19 there were further upheavals: The homeowner Keiko had rented from lost her job and Keiko lost her apartment again. Fortunately, she was able to return to the Senior Safe House until VOA was able to connect her to another affordable housing position.
Keiko relies entirely on social security for her income and removes marketable apartments and houses from her budget. She says an increase in affordable housing, like the proposed 1212 Village, would be a welcome opportunity for low-income renters like her.
Led by VOA, the 1212 Village complex would create 75 new affordable housing units on Del Paso Boulevard in Sacramento. In addition to housing dozens of residents, the project would provide support services and connections for residents, including the elderly.
California and Sacramento are facing a homeless crisis nationally and locally. By providing affordable housing, we can prevent people in stable living conditions, including seniors, from becoming homeless at high costs for society and our community.
“Creating affordable housing is a proactive solution to solving homelessness,” said Doug Snyder, vice president, Regional Real Estate Development, Volunteers of America National Services. “In other words, when someone is homeless, we are in a reactive mode – and it is much more difficult, complex and costly to solve or improve.”
Keiko adds, “Seniors are the most vulnerable; we are totally limited by our income. Can we go out there and work in the job market? Probably not … I don’t know if anyone is hiring seniors.
“Volunteers of America, they really saved me from being on the streets with their facilities and connections,” she says. “I think it’s really important to know that this can happen to anyone, regardless of your education, regardless of your upbringing.”