A Special Story for #GivingTuesday

November 28, 2017 - Paul Downey


Today is #GivingTuesday, a global giving movement for generous individuals and organizations to support the causes they care about and the communities in which they live.

We have an ambitious goal of raising $25,000 to provide 10,000 meals for hungry seniors living in poverty.

I’m sharing a story, below, about one of those seniors: 70-year-old Bruce, who worked hard all his life only to end up homeless after a series of major health challenges. Please take a moment to read his story, and consider making a gift to Serving Seniors so that we can help more folks like Bruce. You can donate online quickly, easily and securely.

I deeply appreciate any support that you can give.

Thank you.

Paul Downey
President and CEO

How Bruce Regained His Dignity

For many of us, the holiday season means gathering with friends and family for feasting and gifts. It means vacations and visits and cozy fires in the hearth.

But imagine what the holidays would be like if you were homeless, had lost your family and friends, possessed only what you could carry, and were just trying to survive.

Sadly, that’s the reality for many of our elderly neighbors, like Bruce.

Bad Luck

Bruce, a Vietnam veteran originally from Cape Cod, was working as a building supervisor in a big upscale building in downtown San Diego. He loved his job and made a good salary. He could live comfortably and still put some money into his savings every month. He worked hard, cherishing his independence, never drinking or doing drugs, and counted himself fortunate. Until 2014, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

While undergoing cancer treatment Bruce suffered a brain aneurysm and stroke, then a heart attack. He was hospitalized and unable to work, undergoing frequent surgeries and treatments. The savings he’d worked so hard to put away were depleted with astonishing speed. When he woke up, he found himself alone. Everyone he’d counted as a friend had disappeared.

Homeless at 67 Years Old

When he was finally released from the hospital, it was to the street. Bruce no longer had a job or a home to go to. He searched and searched for a place to lease with the little money he had left. He found nothing. He couldn’t afford to rent even the smallest, dingiest apartment or motel room. At 67 years old, Bruce was officially homeless.

Three years later and 70 years old, Bruce was still homeless and looking for something to do with his days. Coincidentally, he ran into a gentleman from his old building who recommended Serving Seniors’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center as a starting place.

A Glimmer of Hope

Arriving at the Center, Bruce discovered that he could get a hot, nutritious meal, as well as receive help and access other services. Within a few weeks, he was paired with a Serving Seniors social worker and enrolled in our Transitional Housing Program for Homeless Seniors.

After months of hard work and perseverance, Bruce is back on his feet. He recently moved into his own apartment, no longer in need of the Transitional Housing Program. He is healthy and independent again and wants to go back to work. He’s justifiably proud of how far he’s come. He’s learned to believe in himself again.

“I’m so thankful to Serving Seniors for helping me obtain a clean, safe place to live, with a kitchen of my own. I had nothing, but now I have my life, my dignity back. I feel like a human being again.”

The Homelessness Epidemic

Unfortunately, Bruce’s story is not unique. The number of homeless seniors in San Diego increases every year, and will continue to do so. Thousands of our neighbors are living on Social Security incomes of less than $1,000 per month. Many are isolated and depressed – nearly half of them have to choose between rent and food, every single day. The majority of them will not celebrate the holidays with feasting or gifts.

They will be too busy trying to survive – to stay warm at night and dry if it rains – to celebrate the holidays at all.

We need your help more than ever in order to assist the growing number of seniors living in poverty in San Diego. We need to not only maintain, but increase, our Transitional Housing Program for Homeless Seniors, so that we can help deserving seniors like Bruce move off the street permanently. But we can’t do it without you.

Bruce's Journey

YOU Can Help Homeless Seniors Like Bruce

Your gift today will provide lifesaving food and shelter to homeless seniors this holiday season. Meeting these basic needs is often all the help they require to get back on their feet. These seniors want help. They want to be independent and self-sufficient and contribute to their community. They just need a helping hand. Will you help provide it for them?

I hope that you will make a gift and help eradicate homelessness, hunger, and isolation for San Diego’s seniors. Every contribution, however large or small, helps a senior in need. Together, we can continue helping seniors in poverty live healthy, fulfilling, independent lives.

Donate to Serving Seniors

Testifying for the Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care

October 27, 2017 - Paul Downey

Our President and CEO, Paul Downey, testified this week at an informational hearing for California’s Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, emphasizing the importance of affordable senior housing and access to health and support services.

The hearing provided an opportunity for leaders in senior services organizations to share observations and boots-on-the-ground perspectives with state leaders to help them understand the types of programs and services that California seniors need. The session, part of a series of public hearings throughout the state, focused on creating or improving services which help seniors age at home.

In addition to Paul Downey, experts from UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, AARP California, the California Assisted Living Association and other organizations discussed the importance of efficient, accessible services for seniors and the unique service needs of this population. Representatives also shared resources and examples of successful service models and proposed solutions to help elected officials affect change.

A Unique Perspective

Besides being our President and CEO, Paul Downey serves as Chair to the California Commission on Aging. As the state’s principal advocate for older adults, the Commission’s mandate is to ensure healthy, purposeful, dignified longevity for older Californians. The Commission also advises the Legislature and federal, state and local agencies on programs and services that affect older adults. With an impressive list of credentials and many years of experience, Paul is uniquely positioned to provide valuable insight into challenges around aging and services for seniors.

Paul began by sharing that Serving Seniors was the first organization in the country to receive approval to use Section 8 vouchers for transitional housing for homeless individuals. This project-based use of Section 8 vouchers is certainly better than nothing, but we’re still unable to triage homeless seniors’ situations efficiently due to the strict rules and bureaucracy involved in the Section 8 program.

Paul illustrated the challenges and inefficiencies Serving Seniors faces as a result of the lack of housing in San Diego with this example:

“It used to take our team 90 days to help a homeless senior through the transitional housing program and place them into permanent, affordable housing. Now, because of the lack of housing units, seniors might wait up to a year for placement. We have nowhere to put them after they complete the program.”

What Can You Do?

As Serving Seniors approaches our 50th anniversary, we urge San Diego citizens to get involved and support our ever-growing senior population. If the youth of today is our future, seniors are our legacy. Encourage your City Councilmember to make affordable housing a priority today: sandiego.gov/citycouncil

10 Quick Facts About Housing in San Diego:

  1. Current vacancy rate in San Diego: 2.73%
  2. Average cost of a studio in San Diego: $1,529/month
  3. Average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego: $1,640/month
  4. Average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in San Diego: $2,000/month
  5. Average cost of a single-room-occupancy unit (90-100 sq. ft. “hotel” room with a communal bathroom down the hall) in San Diego: $750/month
  6. According to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, there are presently 3,700 adults aged 55+ on the streets of San Diego.
  7. The average wait time to receive Section 8 vouchers upon approval: 10 years
  8. Serving Seniors owns 350 units of affordable senior housing between two properties; for our 150-unit building in City Heights, there is presently a waiting list of 256 individuals. We turn one or two units per month.
  9. In recent years, 10,000 SRO (single-room-occupancy) units have been demolished in San Diego development projects.
  10. Keeping our senior clients in their permanent housing units requires constant support and intervention from our clinical and support teams. We have to strike a balance between landlord and social worker to keep seniors who have a history of episodic homelessness from regressing.



Emergency Funds Help Seniors Secure Housing

December 29, 2016 - Serving Seniors


Many of Serving Seniors’ clients live on fixed incomes well below $900 per month and are unable to afford many household items we tend to take for granted. Serving Seniors is a support system to San Diego seniors and thanks to SCAN Health Plan’s investment over the past year we are able to help many clients with emergency funding to help them turn their affordable housing units into a home.

Josef G.: Josef has been a client of the Wellness Center for some time. He had been couch surfing with friends since June 2016 after having exhausted his housing options. Josef had been actively seeking affordable housing but the waitlists were years long. Josef came to HPP and secured housing at Luther Tower 2 months into the program. Our organization used SCAN funds to assist client in purchasing a mattress for his new apartment for which he actively worked.

Sylvia W.: Sylvia and her husband were both participants of the HPP program simultaneously. They actively participated in all aspects of case management and met every challenge they faced head on, as their priority was to secure permanent housing and finally settle down after spending months living out of their car. A few months into the program, Sylvia was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Due to the chemo and radiation treatments, Sylvia had to undergo, she was unable to eat at times. Her doctor recommended a juicer, which would assist her in getting proper nutrition. Serving Seniors was able to purchase a new juicer for Sylvia utilizing SCAN funds for which both Sylvia and her husband were very grateful.

Francis A.: Francis had been chronically homeless for close to two decades. He had difficulty finding resources and lacked the support, as he had no family or friends to count on. Francis turned to Serving Seniors and was an active participant of the HPP program. Through the program, Francis was referred to the New Palace and consequently was able to secure a unit. Serving Seniors used SCAN funds to assist Francis in paying the security deposit for his upcoming unit aiding him in ending almost 20 years of homelessness.

Maria V: Maria is a Spanish speaking client who has been attending the GMWSWC for a few years now. Maria recently was offered a unit at a HUD building, Westminster. Since Maria was previously a resident at one of our buildings, Potiker Family Senior Residence, she did not have any furniture of her own as the studio she was in was fully furnished. The case manager was able to assist the client by utilizing SCAN funds in order to purchase a full bedroom set for the client as she spent the first nights at her new apartment sleeping on the floor. Thanks to the generosity of SCAN funds, Maria is now able to sleep comfortably in her new bed.

Thank you to our wonderful supporter, SCAN Health Plan, for helping to keep seniors healthy and off San Diego’s streets!

Healthy Aging Begins at Home

June 14, 2016 - Serving Seniors

seniors agree-aging in place june 2016A recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center found that a greater integration of America’s healthcare and housing systems will be absolutely essential to help manage chronic disease, improve health outcomes for seniors, and enable millions of Americans to age successful in their own homes and communities.

However, the wellbeing and safety of older adults is jeopardized by an inadequate supply of affordable housing and lack of structural features and support services that make “aging in place” difficult.  In addition, about 70 percent of adults over the age of 65 will eventually require help with bathing, food preparation, dressing, and medication management.  These long-term services and supports are not covered by Medicare.

Here are a few recommendations from the study that highlight an investment in the health and well-being of older adults:

  • Preventing and ending homelessness among older adults should become a major national priority.
  • Congress and the administration should identify ways to more effectively support the service coordination needs of senior housing providers, particularly mission-oriented nonprofits.
  • Hospitals should incorporate questions about housing as part of their discharge planning to prevent readmissions.

For additional recommendations or to download a copy of the study, visit http://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/recommendations-for-healthy-aging/.

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