1. What services does Affordable Living For the Aging provide for seniors?
Affordable Living for the Aging’s mission is to provide vulnerable seniors with affordable housing and supportive services. We help stabilize seniors who did not expect to fend for themselves later in life. With our support, aging Angelenos access resources that benefit them emotionally, physically and socially. We connect them to their peers and to other service providers. Some get medical attention, and others finally have a place to recover from an illness or chronic condition. Our team believes that all people have an absolute right to age with dignity and respect. Everyone, regardless of socio-economic status, should live their later years feeling loved and cared for. Over the past three and half decades we have met with more than 30,000 seniors who needed someone to help them find a safe, decent place to call home. But the demand for our services is growing.
2. What are some of the unique challenges that homeless seniors face?
America is aging at a very rapid rate. Seventy-two million “Baby “Boomers,” born between 1946 and 1964, are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day. An estimated one-third of them are struggling with where to live on fixed incomes like social security. Contemplate the magnitude of the issue —- twenty-four million Boomers, living on $750 a month, for the next two to three decades.
The Baby Boom demographic, coupled with increases in average life span compel us to create housing options that are adaptive to an older, less affluent society.
Lamentably, the millennial recession, large public budget deficits and hostility to public domestic spending have dramatically reduced resources for affordable housing. Despite this challenge, at ALA we believe that shared housing has the potential to meet the demand for increased affordable housing without reliance on public capital funding.
Shared housing consists of two or more people sharing a home. This could be a homeowner renting a vacant bedroom, or two or more people renting bedrooms in a group setting.
3. What are the benefits of cooperative living?
The economics of shared housing are attractive as an increasing percentage of seniors are balancing mortgages and high rental costs with other living expenses. Shared housing can provide a source of income and access to non-medical support for those who have ‘extra house’ to share but are otherwise constrained by limited resources. And researchers at UCLA have confirmed that shared living enhances mental and physical health and improves longevity.
4. If in 5 years your organization was featured in the LA Times, what would the headline read?
Our headline would read, “Affordable Living for the Aging’s Shared Housing Program Helps Seniors Gain Security, Companionship and Support.”
Over the next decade ALA will serve as a catalyst and leader in promoting shared housing as a viable model for supporting vulnerable seniors and individuals with special needs. With the help of a national network of shared housing organizations and the inclusion of other community-based partners, private care professionals, city planners, leaders and funders, ALA will proliferate shared housing as a mainstream resource.
While research shows that since dropout rates tend to peak during the first two years of high school, middle school (the 6th, 7th and 8th grade) constitutes a pivotal moment in a student’s career – offering one last chance at effective intervention. *
Operating on the firm belief that academic success is the surest pathway out of poverty for our children, United Way of Greater Los Angeles is working to raise our county’s high school graduation rate to 75% by increasing teacher effectiveness, parent engagement and middle school achievement.
In collaboration with the nationally-renowned Diplomas Now program, created by Johns Hopkins University’s Dr. Robert Balfanz, we’re working to identify kids at-risk and provide them with customized tutoring, peer mentoring and case management.
This student-centered approach to dropout prevention, currently being implemented at struggling LAUSD campuses such as Clinton, Liechty and Hollenbeck Middle Schools, was featured on a recent episode of PBS’ Frontline.
For more information on the joint effort between United Way and Diplomas Now to turn L.A.’s lowest-performing schools around, please click here.
Recently, more than one hundred parents were celebrated at the Center at Cathedral Plaza for their participation in Public School Choice sessions for 25 low-performing schools at LASUD.
Public School Choice (PSC) was created by the Los Angeles Unified School District to turn its lowest-performing schools around by allowing teams of educators, nonprofits and charter school operators to submit proposals to run those campuses.
Those who attended the celebration are a fraction of the more than 4,000 parents who participated in PSC engagement sessions from last October to February of this year. Their feedback was condensed into a report Voices for Change presented to LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy to assist in his decision of improving the 25 low-performing schools.
The event also included a special recognition of four LAUSD parents, Patty Lopez , Eva Vizcarra, Ricardo Benitez; and Mayra Todd for their work in building partnerships between parents and local schools.
Maria Casillas Chief Officer for School, Family, and Parent/ Community Services, LAUSD, was the featured speaker and applauded their perseverance and collective spirit. “Our education system will only improve,” when parents like you continue to partner actively with our schools. “Parents need to exercise their rights, work together, and realize the power they have to reshape our education system.”
Robert is an outreach worker at People Assisting the Homeless (PATH). He began working with PATH through the faith-based internship program DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach & Reflection) in August 2010, after graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in Aerospace Engineering.
1. What did you think your role as an outreach worker was when you first started? Has that changed?
When I began doing street outreach, I thought of my role as a bridge – a constant presence in the community connecting individuals experiencing homelessness with the services and programs offered by PATH. Our goal was to be present and accessible to the homeless individuals living in the communities in which we worked, while focusing on moving people into one of our three housing facilities.
As time has passed, the nature of the work and my perspective on my role has evolved. What hasn’t changed is that the team still shows up every day and offers opportunities for positive change. We still know the names and faces of people living on the streets in our communities, and remain intimately aware of their personal struggles. What’s different is that now we are often able to offer people a clear, customized path to permanent housing, sometimes skipping emergency and transitional programs entirely. This allows us to create plans that are tailored to each client’s specific needs, as the communal, rule-focused nature of shelter environments can sometimes act as a barrier to people suffering from severe mental illness.
The way I view my job has also expanded. I still see myself as a bridge for people suffering homelessness, but now I am a bridge for other members of the community, too.
The outreach team’s constant presence and regular interaction with businesses, government, and other providers allows us the opportunity to talk about our work. We’re able to raise awareness about homelessness and promote strategies to end it. We are the face of social services in our community, and people notice the respect that we offer our clients. This often shifts their perspectives on how homelessness should be viewed.
The power of these relationships should not be underestimated. Through my work with people in need, I have changed as an outreach worker and I have seen the transformation of communities as they engage with us to address homelessness at a local level.
2. Of all the clients you’ve worked with, are there any that have greatly impacted your outreach work?
The first client I helped transition from the streets to permanent housing was a young man in his mid-20’s living in a local park. He had spent his late teens as a professional athlete, until several serious mental health disorders and the lingering trauma of sexual abuse in his youth caught up with him.
It was a privilege to watch him grow and heal. We helped him access mental health treatment and apply for disability benefits while we worked with him to apply for a permanent housing subsidy. Eventually, his talk turned from suicide to the things he wanted to do with his life.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw him perform complicated skateboard tricks for a group of cheering schoolchildren. Afterwards, he admitted it was the first time he had performed in over two years.
In a few weeks, this young man will celebrate one year of living in his own apartment. He spent more than two years on the streets and had given up on finding help, largely because he was unable to cope in shelter and drop-in center environments. Without regular, consistent, and compassionate outreach, this man may well have died on our streets.
3. Moving someone from the street to housing is often a long and difficult process. What changes in that process would make your job easier?
Transformational experiences aren’t always easy. Many barriers to housing people living on the streets persist. The biggest challenge is simply the lack of appropriate, affordable housing. Finding a vacancy in a permanent supportive housing project, or locating other affordable housing opportunities, can be difficult at best. There have been modest improvements in the last year, but long periods of time are spent navigating bureaucracies. This causes clients to get discouraged, lose touch, or, worst of all, die.
Obtaining money for security deposits is another significant barrier. It is difficult for clients to save money while on the streets, because any money they have is spent on survival. We could be much more effective if more funds existed for this purpose.
4. What superhero are you channeling when you are doing outreach?
I have to choose Mr. Fantastic – leader of the Fantastic Four. In addition to maintaining superhero-level good looks, Mr. Fantastic is known for his laser-like focus and the ability to stretch his body into any shape. Like Mr. Fantastic, those of us who do outreach often have to stretch ourselves around barriers or into gaps that no one else fills. We have to be flexible in our approach and in our daily work because we never know what to expect.
Despite fighting numerous super villains, including the notorious planet-devouring Galactus, Mr. Fantastic retains his flexibility, patience, and ability to visualize numerous solutions to a problem. There are few better examples of what it takes to execute successful outreach.
Yesterday, United Way partner Heart of Los Angeles – which provides free afterschool programs to underserved and at-risk youths – welcomed Philadelphia Eagles Cornerback and UWGLA Team NFL Ambassador Nnamdi Asomugha to its facility for a day of painting, planting and bonding.
The L.A. native’s “Day of Service” to the community included a remodeling project in HOLA’s Visual Arts Department, a nature lesson in its sustainable garden/outdoor classroom as well as plenty of opportunities for excited young students to snag pictures and autographs.
With the pro athlete serving as United Way’s newest celebrity spokesperson and championing its mission to Create Pathways Out of Poverty for the residents of L.A. County, the organization anticipates making even greater strides towards ending homelessness, increasing the high school graduation rate and ensuring the financial stability of local families.
Philadelphia Eagles Cornerback and United Way Ambassador, Nnamdi Asomugha took some time out of his busy schedule to spend the day with some of the middle school youngsters from our education partner, Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) and The Asomugha Foundation.
For the entire month of July, the Los Angeles-based What Can I Do? campaign – a grassroots movement which raises awareness about homelessness through art and social action – is shining a spotlight on United Way and the impact of its work on the community.
Aside from showcasing a poignant portrait by photographer Lee Jeffries, the website also encourages visitors to get involved with the organization’s mission to Create Pathways Out of Poverty for the residents of L.A. County by giving, advocating and volunteering.
Founded by filmmaker Rachel Fleischer and outreach coordinator Samantha Shada, WCID aims to create an open dialogue on the issue of homelessness, promote worthwhile initiatives such as UWGLA’s Home for Good action plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness and provide the general public with opportunities to make a real difference.
According to Fleischer, “I was very eager to feature the wonderful work of United Way because they are wholeheartedly committed to understanding what causes poverty and homelessness and using that information to affect permanent change in the lives of everyone they help.”
United Way is pleased to announce the appointment of Patricia D. Hausknost as Chair of the Women Leaders Cabinet for the 2012-2013 campaign season!
Patricia is a highly-respected member of the business community with more than 38 years of experience in the banking industry. Holding an MBA from Chicago’s Loyola University, she moved to Southern California in 1998 and is currently a Senior Vice President at the Los Angeles-based City National Bank.
In addition to becoming a Certified Financial Planner and teaching courses at UCLA Extension in her spare time, Patricia has made invaluable contributions to UWGLA’s Women Leaders – an influential network of local businesswomen who are committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in L.A. County.
This past May, Patricia participated in United Way’s first annual Career Day at El Sereno Middle School and was the opening speaker at the Women Leaders 2012 Spring Breakfast which featured special guest, LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia.
Originally founded in 2001, Women Leaders is a socially-conscious affinity group with nearly 600 members which raises an average of $1.7 million per year for United Way’s Creating Pathways Out of Poverty fund.
For more information on how to join, please click here.
*Patricia Hausknost welcomes guests to the Women Leaders 2012 Spring Breakfast in March.