Aliona Gibson, Activities Coordinator at Oak Center Towers (OCT), found her world turned upside down last year when pandemic shelter-in-place orders began. She went from having close and personal interactions with the residents at her community and being able to organize interesting outings to having to greet people from a distance and a severely curtailed activity calendar, with all contact masked and distanced. Fortunately, Aliona was able to adapt quickly and continue to provide engagement activities and helpful resources for residents of the West Oakland community.
“Since March of last year, I have been creating monthly packets for our residents to give them something to do while they are safe at home. The packets includes a variety of puzzles and brain teasers, easy recipes, and a letter with helpful information about Coronavirus from the CDC, all translated into the different languages spoken by our residents.”
“Some residents will complete the entire packet and return it to me, a sign that they are engaged and enjoying the handouts,” Aliona says. “We have been able to do some group activities outside. Even though it’s sometimes cold, our residents show up for socially-distanced bingo! On holiday crafts day, residents still came out to make holiday cards and cookie ornaments even though it was a bit windy.”
Aliona’s favorite part of her role at Oak Center Towers is getting to know the residents. “Despite some language barriers, I feel connected and appreciated. I love the chuckles when I say ‘good morning’ or ‘thank you’ in Cantonese, Korean, or Tigrinya. It’s challenging not to be able to verbally communicate extensively with everyone, but they are still able to let me know they enjoyed an activity I organized, which makes me feel good about my work,” Aliona says. “I especially enjoyed being able to deliver handmade cards created by volunteers from Creative Spark, Covia’s creative aging program. It was during a time when I felt like a small thing like a card with an inspirational message could brighten someone’s day! Shout out to the Creative Spark team!”
Monterey County homeowner Doris Beckman was struggling to keep her home – until she started home-sharing. “It’s made such a difference in my life not to have to worry about paying my bills or losing my home,” Beckman says. “I am finally able to do the needed maintenance on my home and dig my way out of the debt from my husband’s illness.”
Now, Beckman is carrying forward this personal experience into a new role – leading the expansion of Covia’s home-sharing program, Home Match, into the community she loves. “There are so many people living on the edge, just one paycheck away from losing everything,” says Beckman, who is leading the Home Match Monterey program as the Program Manager. “Home-sharing done right can relieve isolation, stress, depression, and anxiety.”
Launching in October 2020, Home Match Monterey will support multiple communities on the Monterey Peninsula, including Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Sand City, and Seaside.
The seed was first planted in late 2018 when Home Match was invited to present to the Housing Options Meaningful to Elders (HOME) Collaborative. Karen Coppock, Senior Program Director of Home Match, saw this as an opportunity to deepen Covia’s local roots and help tackle the affordable housing crisis, identified by the Monterey County’s Area Agency on Aging as a top priority.
“Covia has over 55 years of history in the community through Canterbury Woods as well as Market Day and the Well Connected programs, so we are excited to expand our support to include affordable housing,” notes Coppock.
As exemplified by Beckman’s own story, the issue of affordable housing has become increasingly prevalent in Monterey County for both homeowners and renters. With many Bay Area residents moving out of San Francisco and into Monterey, housing costs are increasing and exacerbating the issue for those who work on the Monterey Peninsula but cannot afford to live there. The Monterey Bay Economic Partnership has identified that 85% of Monterey Peninsula workers commute and that over a quarter drive at least 50 miles a day. These issues are aggravated by COVID-19, which has increased financial instability and social isolation while causing increased interest in aging-in-place.
“Home Match provides an excellent solution to these issues by matching local people with extra rooms in their homes with people seeking affordable housing,” explains Coppock. “Added rent from the match allows homeowners or primary tenants to stay longer in their homes while providing an affordable housing solution to those who would not otherwise be able to afford to live in their community.”
There has already been real local demand for Home Match’s services in Monterey, with 33 people interested in offering rooms and 37 people looking for shared homes. In return, Home Match will offer its time-proven, community-centered approach that includes a person-centered application and customizable agreement process. Home Match also has safety guidelines in place during COVID-19, operates in both English and Spanish, and serves everyone regardless of their immigration status.
Reflecting on this next step in her home-sharing journey, Beckman can’t wait to get started. “I know the impact Home Match can make in the community and I am so excited to be a part of it,” she says.
Do you have an available room in your home or are you looking for affordable housing in Monterey County? If so, please visit our website to find more information and submit an inquiry form. You can also reach out to Doris Beckman directly at email@example.com or 831-760-5529. We look forward to hearing from you!
Home Match’s expansion into Monterey would not have been possible without support from funders, endorsers, and supporters, including the Monterey County’s Department of Social Services Aging and Adult Services, and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation – host of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. In addition, funding was provided in part by a grant from the Margaret L. Musser Field of Interest fund of the Community Foundation for Monterey County. Thank you to everyone who helped make Home Match Monterey possible:
- Monterey County’s Department of Social Services Aging and Adult Services
- Funding was provided (or funded in part) by a grant from Margaret L. Musser Field of Interest fund of the Community Foundation for Monterey County
- Monterey Peninsula Foundation, host of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
- Housing Options Meaningful for Elders (HOME) Collaborative
- Monterey Bay Economic Partnership
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Monterey County’s Community Voice for Aging
- Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council
- Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula
- UPS Store #459 in Monterey
The Boards of Directors for Front Porch and Covia, two leading California-based not-for-profit senior living and affordable housing providers, voted on June 1 to affiliate.
The new affiliation will create one of the nation’s top not-for-profit organizations providing senior living, affordable housing and community services for more than 10,000 people. The combined organization will ensure long-term stability, achieve economic benefits, manage costs, and scale and access resources across 54 communities.
“Our affiliation with Front Porch creates a strong organization going forward that will support the changing needs of our residents,” said Vincent Forte, Chairman of the Covia Communities Board of Directors.
“Aligning our leadership, experience and expertise creates an opportunity to better meet the evolving expectations of a growing population of older adults,” said Oliver Wesson, Chairman of the Front Porch Board of Directors.
Covia CEO and President Kevin Gerber and Front Porch CEO John Woodward will remain in their positions during the transition. The boards agreed to retain the Front Porch name initially and appoint John Woodward as CEO of the combined entity. Kevin Gerber will leave upon the close of the affiliation, expected in early 2021.
“Combining with Covia strengthens our long-held goal of building strong and engaging communities, connecting people with the services and relationships they need to thrive,” Woodward said. “Under Kevin’s leadership, Covia has raised the bar for our industry and is the ideal partner to provide even greater service to all of our communities.”
“Our collective geographic footprints and service offerings will maximize Front Porch’s capacity to grow and diversify our reach and impact,” Gerber said. “I’m confident that under John’s guidance our affiliation will be a success.”
The affiliation is subject to the receipt of regulatory approvals and is expected to close in early 2021. Front Porch and Covia will continue to operate their organizations and their respective communities separately until the affiliation is approved.
For more information, please visit our webpage at covia.org/affiliation.
Jonathan and Jackie have only lived together for a few months, but they both say it already feels like they’ve known each other forever. They found each other through Home Match, a program of Covia Community Services. Jonathan describes Home Match as “a ‘dating service’ that helps you find the perfect roommate.” For both Jonathan and Jackie, finding Home Match was a life saver.
Jonathan, a social worker with the city of San Francisco, couldn’t find affordable rentals in San Francisco and was commuting daily from Hercules. “I was searching for a place to live. I tried Craigslist, Apartments.com, asking through friends, with no success,” he says. “It was either Home Match or I had to leave San Francisco.”
Jackie, a retired hotel worker, was thinking of giving up her San Francisco apartment where she’d lived for years in order to save some money. “Then I thought I LOVE this neighborhood,” she says. “Why don’t I just see about a roommate.”
Home Match was the key for both Jonathan and Jackie. Home Match helps homeowners with extra rooms connect with home seekers who need an affordable place to live, creating a win-win situation. Home Match staff interview prospective homeowners and home seekers to check backgrounds and ensure compatibility, then connect people by researching personal preferences, house types, and interests. In some cases, accommodation can be provided in exchange for services, such as driving to the grocery store or lending a hand around the house. With this kind of arrangement, senior homeowners can often continue to be successful in their own home, while lodgers have access to affordable housing so they can remain in the area and continue their good work.
“With Home Match, along comes Jonathan, and he’s been a blessing,” says Jackie. “Living with him has opened the door back to life. It’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Jonathan and Jackie both appreciated the personal nature of the application and matching process. “I felt that I was being treated with dignity throughout the process,” Jonathan notes. “I always felt like I could trust the Home Match team.”
“I would absolutely recommend Home Match to anyone in my position. I love it because it brings people together, even those who you wouldn’t think would connect,” Jonathan says.
*This article was previously published in the Fall 2019 edition of Community Matters
Over the past year, residents at Oak Center Towers have been fostering their creativity through art classes and art programs. Aliona Gibson, Activities Coordinator at Oak Center Towers, has been introducing residents to a new art project every month in addition to supporting the community’s connection with the Art with Elders program.
Art with Elders at Oak Center Towers
Art with Elders provides weekly art classes led by professional art instructors to over 450 residents in communities around the Bay Area. Their classes focus on teaching art skills such as composition and color as well as fostering community. Participants are invited to submit their artwork for the annual exhibit that showcases their hard work to the public around the Bay Area.
This year, artwork created by residents at Oak Center Towers for the Art with Elders program is featured in the 27th Annual Art with Elders Exhibit, currently on display at the Gerald Simon Auditorium at Laguna Honda Hospital through November 18th. Aliona Gibson and Oak Center Towers residents attended the exhibit’s Opening Celebration on October 27th where, Gibson notes, residents were “very proud and excited about their work being on display.”
One resident’s art was even selected to be printed onto greeting cards that could be purchased at the event. Gibson purchased one of these cards, saying that “it was invaluable to me to have such a beautiful and professional reproduction of the resident’s work.”
Beyond their work at Oak Center Towers, Art with Elders also provides classes at Lytton Gardens in Palo Alto, and Executive Director Mark Campbell and Instructor-Exhibits Manager Darcie O’Brien spoke as part of Covia’s 2019 Creative Aging Symposium, which celebrates the importance of creativity in creating a sense of self and living with purpose. The Creative Aging Symposium will return on January 29th, 2020 to explore more aspects of creative aging featuring speakers with backgrounds in eco-friendly fashion, choreography, and medicine.
Monthly Art Projects
In addition to the Art with Elders program, Gibson has been introducing residents at Oak Center Towers to monthly art projects that allow them to try out different mediums and materials. Residents have created everything from tie-dye t-shirts and terrariums to painted flower pots and tissue flowers.
One popular event even had an edible component where residents created rainbow fruit skewers with strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupes, pineapple, green grapes, and blueberries. Gibson notes that the event was particularly popular because residents “got to take them home and some residents ate while creating.”
Beyond the monthly art projects, there is also a weekly coloring activity where a small group of residents gather to color with gel pens, markers, and colored pencils.
Oak Center Towers’ diverse population means that not all of the residents share the same language, which can make craft projects and teaching difficult. Gibson says, “There is usually one person who speaks English who will relay what I am saying but mostly they go by pictures. I always bring examples of the craft we are doing, sometimes a prototype and sometimes pictures from the internet.”
Between the monthly art projects, regular coloring group, and Art with Elders program, Oak Center Towers has created a number of beautiful pieces that have been displayed around the community on top of the art accepted into the Art with Elders’ exhibit.
The Art with Elders Annual Exhibit is open until November 18th at the Gerald Simon Auditorium at Laguna Honda Hospital. After November 18th, the exhibit will move to the Rincon Center in Downtown San Francisco through January 18th, 2020. Artwork from the Art with Elders exhibit is also available on their website.
*Image of Oak Center Towers group courtesy of Art with Elders
On July 11th, Ruth’s Table, a program of Bethany Center Senior Housing, is celebrating its grand re-opening at a new dedicated gallery space located at 3160 21st Street, San Francisco. The opening reception from 6:00-9:00 pm launches a year-long exploration of Bauhaus through a series of exhibits.
Founded in 2009 with the support of artist Ruth Asawa, Ruth’s Table began as an arts initiative integrated into Bethany Center, an affordable senior housing community. The new building will serve as a gallery and creative learning space where people of all ages can come together to learn, connect, and create.
Jessica McCracken, Director of Ruth’s Table, says, “Ruth’s Table provides a safe, inclusive and welcoming space for the community to engage with arts, build meaningful connections and feel the uplifting joy of community. Our programs encourage personal growth and promote lifelong learning, while strengthening creativity, health, and independence to greatly enhance one’s quality of life.”
The first exhibit in the new space, Beyond the Warp and Weft, launches a year-long inaugural program of contemporary exhibitions celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus. The exhibit brings together 14 artists to illuminate the diversity of contemporary ideas of weaving and textile, highlight innovative craft thinking, and chart the future trajectory of the practice. The exhibition presents a stylistically diverse selection of works that combine hand weaving, sound, science, sculpture and site-specific installation.
Throughout the year, four exhibitions will examine the enduring impact of Bauhaus ideas on weaving and textile design, color interaction and theory, photography, and activism in the arts, with a particular emphasis on the way contemporary art practices have evolved with the innovations in materials and technology.
For more information, please visit https://www.ruthstable.org/.
The 8th Annual Celtic Cup Golf Tournament and Gala Reception brought together more than 220 guests to raise a quarter of a million dollars to support services for seniors in need. Thanks to our many sponsors, golfers and community friends who joined us at Berkeley Country Club and made this year’s tournament the best yet!
“The energy of the day was truly remarkable,” says Katharine Miller, Executive Director of the Covia Foundation. “We couldn’t do this without the enthusiasm and involvement of the many people who partner with Covia to promote life-changing services for seniors.”
Over 200 corporate and individual participants, including our title sponsor City Building, Inc., supported the event. The sold-out golf tournament on the cool and sunny course provided scenic bay views throughout the day. Mike Acosta, Vince Baldwin, Steve Baldwin, and Bob Giarusso won the tournament in a playoff against Barry Johnson, Jenny Noymany, Mark Marshall, and John Durham.
The evening auction, hosted by Liam Meyclem from KCBS’ Eye on the Bay, provided its own entertainment as participants tried to outbid each other for a Farm to City Private Dinner at San Francisco Towers or an evening with Covia CEO Kevin Gerber. The auction raised more than $80,000, with almost half coming from fund-a-need bidding to support Covia Community Services and Covia Affordable Communities as attendees learned the stories of seniors whose lives have been touched by Covia through a video created for the event.
For going above and beyond in their service to seniors and senior living, and their generous support to Covia over the years, the team from Morrison Community Living was the recipient of this year’s Celtic Cup.
“It was a successful event,” says Miller. “But more importantly, the funds we raised make a difference, ensuring that seniors have a safe home and remain connected with the greater community. We’re grateful for the generosity of all who attended.”
You can see photos of the event in an album on our Facebook page.
In theory, Fair Housing is a straightforward concept: “At the end of the day, it’s that you don’t have special treatment for one resident over another,” says Karim Sultan, Covia’s Vice President of Affordable Housing. But in practice, it may not be as easy as it sounds.
The Fair Housing Act guarantees protection from discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. It is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which subsidizes Covia’s six Affordable Communities.
“I think a big myth is that fair housing is something that’s automatic and that you don’t have to be incredibly intentional about it. You can very easily be in violation of fair housing in two seconds if you’re not careful,” says Sultan. “You have to really be aware of it at all times and be very diligent about maintaining it.”
April is Fair Housing Month, but Covia Affordable Communities works hard to practice that intentionality in fair housing all year round. “We do an annual fair housing training with a fair housing attorney religiously every year,” Sultan reports. “But we also have periodic fair housing check-ins when we do our monthly meetings. It’s something you can’t reiterate enough. If you say it a thousand times, say it a thousand more times. Because as soon as it starts to be not present in the mind, things can happen.”
The planning for fair housing starts long before people move into a community, Sultan explains. “When we open up a wait list, we have to have a HUD approved marketing plan and tenant selection plan. And so those plans really seek to ensure that the process by which you move people into the building is fair.”
Once people move in, “you have a lease and house rules that again you have to be really diligent about because the lease is the same for everybody. Everybody follows the same house rules. So it’s really incumbent upon the site staff to make sure that they’re treating everybody fairly.”
If residents do feel there has been a violation of their rights, they can go through an appeal process. At Covia, “I haven’t had to reverse an administrator for violating fair housing up to now. It could happen. It just hasn’t happened as of yet,” says Sultan. “But I do remind them always that sometimes it’s not what you do but how you do it. Are you communicating thoroughly enough when you’re having people stick to their lease or talking to them about the violation of house rules. Are you ensuring that you’re communicating in a way where they feel like, ‘This is standard, and this is not just targeted at me’?”
Although not subject to the same federal law as the HUD-subsidized communities, Covia’s Home Match program is also attuned to the need for fair housing. Home Match, Covia’s Shared Housing program, connects homeowners with extra space with home seekers who need a place to live in the expensive Bay Area housing market. Home Match works with home owners and home seekers to create a Living Together Agreement that may include a home seeker providing services, such as shopping or pet care, in exchange for a reduction in rental costs.
Tanya Ahern, Program Director for Home Match in Fremont, previously served on a board of a Fair Housing organization and brings her experience to the table when helping to match homeowners and home seekers. “With shared housing I think the most important thing is to make sure that you don’t have identifying characteristics that go into referring people so that that way it’s based purely on their merit and their financial means to pay and it’s not based on race or gender,” says Ahern.
“I see a lot of people who have been turned away from housing because of race, because of disability status,” says Ahern. “Because Home Match prescreens, it makes people more comfortable and more open to housing with people that maybe they might not have considered before. I think it’s really helping house people who didn’t have a fair shake in the world. I think it’s a perk that it’s helping house people who face challenges due to stigma.”
For Covia Affordable Communities, fair housing is part of its legal mandate, but Sultan observes it’s not just about complying with the legal requirements. It’s about making residents feel at home. “Over time, when residents witness the rules being applied equally, it does give them confidence that ‘this is a place where I can feel safe, where I won’t be targeted because of my race, because of my sexual orientation, because of my religion.’ And that’s very, very important because a big part of home is security and being safe.”
“As long as you own and manage communities, and you house people, fair housing is something you have to be constantly aware of,” Sultan says. “It never gets old. It never gets easy. It never gets stale. It’s just something you have to be really diligent about at all times.”
Lytton Gardens in Palo Alto offers something almost unheard of in senior affordable housing: an Assisted Living option. Openings are currently available for seniors age 62 and older who meet certain financial eligibility requirements.
Housing Administrator Doris Lee says, “Affordable Housing usually only has independent living, so to have the assisted living and the nursing home on the same campus is truly unique.”
“Many people know about Lytton Gardens independent living and Webster House Healthcare Center. The assisted living is not as widely recognized. Our assisted living is more affordable than others in the area, and we want to spread the word out that we have affordable assisted living,” adds Lee.
Assisted Living allows residents to remain independent in many areas while provide support for activities of daily living, such as dressing or bathing, that may require additional support. A typical Assisted Living community can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 per month or more, far out of reach for many seniors.
At Lytton Gardens, however, the cost is far less. In fact, the maximum allowable income to qualify as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is currently set at $66,150 for a single person or $75,600 for a couple. Once income-qualified, residents at Lytton Gardens Assisted Living pay 30% or less of their monthly income for rent, a meal fee of $642.60, and a personal care fee of $1350. For this, residents receive three meals a day, housekeeping and laundry services, and 24-hour staff assistance. The rest of the resident’s rent is subsidized by HUD.
Located only blocks away from downtown Palo Alto, Lytton Gardens offers not just a place to live, but a community, with many activities and special events as well as a weekly Market Day. “Having the different levels of care on one campus allows the resident to still live amongst the friends they have cultivated and in the place they have called home for so long,” says Lee. “Although the resident needs to move to a different apartment, they are still part of the Lytton Gardens community. Also having the nursing home on site has given some residents the extra motivation to be able to look out their window and see their apartment and work extra hard to be able to return to their apartment safely.”
One resident who has been living in Lytton’s Assisted Living for three years says, “I love the central location of the community, so close to all the shops and restaurants on University Ave. I love my apartment. Having maintenance crew on site is a plus. All the caregivers are great and they personalize the care.”
Lytton Gardens Assisted Living is currently accepting applications. Please contact Lytton Gardens to schedule a tour or call (650) 617-7338 to speak with the Assisted Living Manager, Anahi McKane.