Residents and staff from Covia Affordable Communities recently attended LeadingAge California’s annual Affordable Senior Housing Resident Advocacy Day in Sacramento. One of our staff members reported that one resident left an impact on his Assemblyman when he introduced himself saying, “My name is Dean and I was homeless for four years before I got a studio in an affordable HUD building.” We’ve asked Dean to share his story.
If you have ever experienced a trauma (and most of us have), you may not want to talk about it. That’s the way it was with me, but my friends at Covia convinced me that other people might be helped by my “confession.” So, here goes.
The trouble began in early 2012. Having been unemployed for 2 years (a direct result of the 2008 recession), my money completely ran out and I was faced with eviction from my Oakland apartment of 16 years. When you can’t pay the rent, the sheriff simply changes the locks and you don’t get in.
A friend (call him J.R.) saved me from life in the street by offering to let me sleep in his van. This is not an ordeal I would wish on anyone. Though not too uncomfortable physically (just make sure you have lots of blankets in cold weather), you are constantly in fear of police and hostile “neighbors.”
After 3 ½ years in this situation, I returned to the van one afternoon to find that it was no longer there. A police woman parked nearby informed me that the van had been towed only an hour before. All my possessions (books, CDs, clothing and a guitar) were gone. Although I’d been careful not to park it in front of anyone’s house (it had been near an empty lot), I guess the old Dodge Ram was an eyesore to some “upstanding citizens.” So I experienced two disasters in less than 4 years.
At this point, I walked to J.R.’s house and told him what had happened. He somewhat shamefacedly admitted that he had neglected to pay some old parking tickets as well as vehicle registration, but then offered to let me sleep in a tent in his back yard.
One afternoon soon after this, I received a phone call from Oak Center Towers. I had applied for residency there over a year before, and they now had a vacant studio apartment. This was the first cheerful note in my life since 2010! On arriving at my first interview, I met Julia Bergue, a sweet and flexible person who did all the necessary paperwork.
Finally, on August 17, 2016, I spent the first night in my new home. Somewhat dazedly, I realized there was a solid, legitimate, leak-proof roof over my head.
So take it from me: when you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way is up. Keep a-going’!!
Dean, age 66, earned his Master’s degree and worked as a paralegal for 20 years before losing his job during the great recession.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15. The National Center on Elder Abuse created this information as a downloadable document.
Our communities are like buildings that support people’s wellbeing. Sturdy buildings ensure that people are safe and thriving at every age. We all have a part to play in this construction project. Here are 12 things everyone can do to build community supports and prevent elder abuse.
- Learn the signs of elder abuse and neglect and how we can collectively solve the issue.
- Talk to friends and family members about how we can all age well and reduce abuse with programs and services like improved law enforcement, community centers, and public transportation.
- Prevent isolation. Call or visit our older loved ones and ask how they are doing regularly.
- Send a letter to a local paper, radio or TV station suggesting that they cover World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) or Grandparents Day in September.
- Join Ageless Alliance, an organization that connects people of all ages, nationwide, who stand united for the dignity of older people and for the elimination of elder abuse. Visit agelessalliance.org.
- Provide respite breaks for caregivers.
- Encourage our bank managers to train tellers on how to detect elder financial abuse.
- Ask our doctors to ask all older patients about possible family violence in their lives.
- Contact a local Adult Protective Services or Long-Term Care Ombudsman to learn how to support their work helping older people and adults with disabilities who may be more at-risk.
- Organize an “Aging with Dignity” essay or poster contest in a local school.
- Ask religious congregation leaders to give a talk about elder abuse at a service or to put a message about elder abuse in the bulletin.
- Volunteer to be a friendly visitor to a nursing home resident or to a homebound older person in our communities.
It is up to all of us to prevent and address elder abuse! For more information on elder abuse prevention, please visit ncea.acl.gov.