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Family Eldercare to Increase Deeply Affordable Housing for Older Adults

Family Eldercare has been partnering with older adults and people with disabilities since 1982, and ensuring their financial and housing stability is a critical priority. We’re thrilled to announce our participation in the Travis County Supportive Housing Collaborative to develop a pipeline of new-build supportive housing to address the needs of housing-fragile older adults, people experiencing homelessness, and adults with disabilities.

Family Eldercare joined six other non-profits (Austin Area Urban League, Caritas of Austin, Integral Care, LifeWorks, A New Entry, and SAFE Alliance) to form the Travis County Housing Collaborative. Our goal is to create 1,000 units of new affordable housing with wrap-around supportive services on at least six sites in Austin.  Over the next four months, we will engage with stakeholders with city, county, non-profits, people experiencing homelessness, and advocates to develop site-specific models for deeply affordable housing and supportive services. The Collaborative is committed to an inclusive process that prioritizes those with lived experience and integrates an equity assessment to ensure our development project will increase equity in health and wellness, affordability access and sustainability, cultural preservation and proficiency, institutional compliance and accountability, transparency, intersectionality, and community engagement. The Collaborative will also perform capacity-building for smaller local non-profits through partnerships at the new supportive housing sites.

Family Eldercare’s clients are among the many people affected by the housing affordability crisis unfolding in Austin. Over 90% are under 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Unplanned expenses such as health emergencies or the rising cost of living are catastrophic for people living on a low, fixed income. Some fall deeper into poverty because they are no longer able to manage their finances due to cognitive decline or the loss of a partner who previously handled bills. And for the thousands of older adults experiencing or at risk for homelessness in Travis County, aging in place is contingent on having a safe, affordable place to live. Our community urgently needs more affordable housing units, and we are grateful for Travis County leadership for making a historic investment in the creation of deeply affordable and supportive housing.

ABOUT FAMILY ELDERCARE: We thoughtfully partner with families, individuals, and other local organizations to create stability, dignity, and success for aging Central Texans. As fierce advocates for aging in place, Family Eldercare offers a continuum of services to keep our community stably housed, financially secure, healthy, socially connected, and protected from abuse, neglect, or exploitation – regardless of income. We believe older adults and people with disabilities are a vital part of creating a more livable, inclusive community for everyone.

Family Eldercare has offered client-centered services to keep older adults stably housed for many years with proven results. From 1997-2011, Family Eldercare operated the Elder Shelter to provide transitional housing and intensive case management for older adults experiencing homelessness. We have been providing some form of these services ever since, including identifying housing, providing case management, and assisting people to exit homelessness. In 2004, Family Eldercare was awarded HUD 202 funds to develop and construct Lyons Gardens, a 54-unit affordable senior housing community in Austin, TX that we maintain to this day. In 2005, we helped form a local collaborative which provides comprehensive case management and direct financial assistance to people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. In 2020 and 2021, Family Eldercare was a key provider of financial assistance to individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and Winter Storm Uri, successfully scaling up our services to manage millions of dollars of relief funds.

 

ACTION ALERT: Support older adults, people with disabilities, and those who care for them

Congress is currently considering including $400 billion for Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in the larger infrastructure bill. This investment would help older adults, people with disabilities, and care workers across the country live and age with dignity in their own homes and communities.  

 Why support an investment in Home and Community-Based Services?  

  1.  It allows people to age at home in supportive communities – which is what most of us want for ourselves and our loved ones.   
  2. It saves money – without it, people end up in institutions like nursing homes or hospitals.  
  3. It creates jobs – home care is one of the fastest-growing professions in the country, but the demand is still higher than the supply. Investing in this workforce is critical.  

 What can you do?  

  1. Send a letter to you representative telling them to support the $400 billion investment for Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). Templates available via Justice in Aging (click here) and Caring Across Generations (click here). 
  2. Post on social media (Click here for a toolkit) 
  3. Check out other great organizations who are advocating for older adults, people with disabilities, and those who care for them: 

The Texas Impact:

Texas Fact Sheet

A Good Day for a Family Eldercare Guardian

Jennie smiling

Jennie Edwards is having a good day. She just received a special message from a former client.

Jennie is a certified guardian, and one of her former clients just had his rights restored by the courts. It’s been a longtime goal for the client, and Jennie is thrilled that he has achieved it.

Before we get back to Jennie’s happy day, let’s talk about guardianship itself. Guardianship is a legal process where a person is found by the court to be incapacitated or unable to substantially provide for their care, health, finances, and other daily affairs. A guardian is then appointed to make decisions for that person.

Because appointing a guardian means taking away a person’s rights, it must be the last and best available option. Guardians have legal responsibilities from the court that they must follow. Becoming a certified guardian for an organization requires many hours of specialized training, supervision, and passing a state exam with the Judicial Branch Certification Commission.

Family members can become guardians if they can meet the legal requirements. In fact, in Texas, preference is given to appointing a family member as a guardian when that is an appropriate option. For many in our community, however, appointing a family member as guardian is not an option. It could be that a person has lost ties with family members, family members are not willing or able to become guardians, or the court may disqualify a family member from being named a guardian. Guardianship programs such as the one at Family Eldercare are essential for individuals without family members who can fulfill the guardianship requirements.

Jennie takes her responsibility as a guardian very seriously.

“I look for the strengths in my clients. I support them in making the decisions they can. I want them to feel autonomy.”

In her 14 years as a certified guardian, the experiences Jennie cherishes the most are those when she is able to help a client become more independent – whether that means helping them get their rights restored, or moving them to a less restrictive environment where they can truly thrive.

“You just feel really proud and happy and excited. It’s the ultimate, it’s just inspiring.”

Let’s come back to our happy day. As she recounts the joy and thrill of having her former client’s rights restored, Jennie receives this special message from him.

“I feel like you all are family,” he says. “There have been a lot of people who told me I should back out, they didn’t think I could handle it. Family Eldercare has had my back. You kept your word, helped me get back on my feet. Helped me get my rights restored, which was my primary goal in life. I am highly grateful.”

The day you learn that your actions helped someone achieve their primary goal in life is a good day. It is a happy day.

Not Just A Fan. A New Life.

Lisa White, one of Family Eldercare’s licensed mental health counselors, shares her remarkable journey with her client Cheryl. It all started with a box fan.

I met Cheryl during one of our typical sweltering summers last year.

This was during the height of COVID-19. She was sheltering at home and it was HOT. Cheryl couldn’t afford to turn on her AC. She had recently become a widow and was grieving the loss of her husband. They had shared their Austin home for over a decade and she was in danger of losing it. Her bills and rent were quickly piling up. Cheryl worried about getting evicted. She worried about getting COVID. She worried about her future.

In the middle of her overwhelming grief and anxiety, Cheryl heard about Family Eldercare’s Summer Fan Drive and reached out for help. She received large box fans that kept her and her dog cool and comfortable. The fans could also save her money on her utilities.

Like all fan drive clients, she received a resource packet that included information about Family Eldercare’s other services. She read about our in-home counseling program where licensed counselors like me travel to your home for counseling services. That’s how we met.

We worked through difficult feelings together. Cheryl began to feel less overwhelmed and isolated. But she was still facing eviction. So, I referred her to our Financial and Housing Stability program, where she quickly found a case manager dedicated to keeping older adults housed. Her case manager connected her to COVID relief funding which got 5 months of rent paid, totaling over $5,000! A big weight had been lifted and Cheryl was grateful to stay in her home.

Then Winter Storm Uri hit in February 2021, and the state shut down many of its services. Cheryl was unable to get the food stamps she relied on. She once again reached out to Family Eldercare for help. Through our crisis response initiative, Cheryl received an H-E-B gift card to help hold her over until her food stamps were reinstated.

In Cheryl’s journey with Family Eldercare, she received fans to survive our heat without AC. She was able to care for her mental health, stabilize her housing, and weather some of the worst crises our state has faced in decades.

But she still faced one final obstacle: getting a COVID-19 vaccine. She had spent hours of her time searching online to locate a vaccination appointment without any luck. She told me in our counseling sessions that she was becoming increasingly frustrated and worried. Then, we learned that Family Eldercare had worked with Austin Public Health to offer a vaccine clinic at our main office. I made sure Cheryl was signed up for the clinic and she finally received her vaccine in April.

“Shouting from the rooftops!” she told me after, expressing her deep gratitude and relief for the support that has enabled her to live independently.

Resources:

Summer Fan Drive

In-home Counseling program

Financial and Housing Stability program

 

Older American’s Month: Olivia

There’s one thing you must know about Olivia Ussery. She loves to help people. “I’ve always had love in my heart. Even as a child,” she says. “I guess I was born this way.” Olivia’s got sunshine on a cloudy day. If you face a struggle, she’ll rush to your side. She’s 89-years young and she’s here to make everything better.

One piece of her big heart belongs to James–her husband of 69 and a half years—and their six children. You might assume that with such a big family, she wouldn’t have time for anything else.  You’d be wrong. While living in Germany as a military wife, she volunteered for the Red Cross. As she puts it, “there’s always time to volunteer. Even with 6 children, I could volunteer.” Over the years, Olivia has volunteered and served on several boards, including Family Eldercare’s.

In her late 30’s Olivia discovered another way to help people. She became a Licensed Vocational Nurse and worked in both hospital and home health settings. For 52 years, she was a bedside comfort, an encouraging voice, a quiet, loving presence. Olivia officially retired in 2019 at age 88.

Now, there’s one last thing you should know about Olivia. She’s a DIVA. A Divinely Inspired Virtuously Anointed Sister, thank you very much. Olivia’s joyous, vibrant soul is fed by her lifelong connection to church. The DIVAS is a women’s ministry at the David Chapel Baptist Church, where Olivia’s been a member 30 years. Among other good works, the DIVAS donate fans to the Summer Fan Drive–always in colorful bags which the recipients love.

Olivia says, “Prayer is the answer to everything.” And she strives to be a beacon of hope and love to anyone who needs it.

Let your light shine on, Olivia. For it is resplendent.