Collaboration: It Starts With Application Assistance and Ends With Empowering Older Adults

By Michelle Nochisaki
Program Coordinator, Green and Healthy Homes Initiative
Member, Steering Committee, Aging Action Initiative

Older adults are the foundation of our families, and the safety and integrity of their homes is important to them aging well physically, mentally, and emotionally. Far too often, many of the nation’s older adults struggle to stay in their homes simply because they are unable to afford even the simple modifications necessary to avoid injuries, not to mention major health and safety issues that need to be addressed. Even those who are eligible for government or nonprofit home rehab programs often have difficulty finding and applying for the appropriate assistance.

How can we solve this? Collaboratively!

In Baltimore, the combination of an aging population and aging housing stock prompted government, philanthropy, nonprofits, and healthcare providers to join forces. In 2015, Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) was formed through grants by the Leonard & Helen R. Stulman Foundation and Hoffberger Family Philanthropies. The grants allowed social workers from five “HUBS,” each geographically assigned to a different part of the city, to provide application assistance for homeowners above the age of 65 seeking home rehabilitation, weatherization, and home safety modifications. Due to the success of the program, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation funded a capital grant with a match from the city of Baltimore, allowing the home repair partners, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), Civic Works, Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore, and Rebuilding Together Baltimore to provide more extensive services.

“Sometimes we don’t realize how much the little things matter, like a simple handrail,” said Bryan Koerber, housing intervention and services manager, about the work he does through GHHI’s Aging in Place program in Baltimore. “We’re able to provide handrails, motion lights, non-slip carpet treads, and exterior entrance railings to prevent falls, and also incorporate additional funding to install new furnaces. Now they have a working heat source and are able to live in their homes comfortably. When we’re able to deliver more holistic services, we’re able to change lives.”

As a HUBS partner, GHHI utilizes its holistic home assessment to identify slip, trip, and fall risks as well as health hazards and energy inefficiencies. It then braids together local housing programs to provide the necessary interventions for its clients and delivers education materials that promote good medication practices, healthy eating, and regular exercise routines to ensure that the older adults they help receive a holistic approach to achieving a healthy home.

Locally, GHHI Marin, an initiative of Marin Community Foundation, is a network of providers working together to improve the health, safety, and energy efficiency of Marin County homes. With many of its clients being seniors, Age Friendly Sausalito, Community Action Marin, County of Marin: Health and Human Services and Community Development Agency, MCE Clean Energy, Marin City Community Development Corporation, Marin Housing Authority, Marin Center for Independent Living, Strategic Energy Innovations, and Whistlestop make up the collaborative partnership working towards mimicking Baltimore’s collective success.

GHHI Marin is a housing modification program for income eligible applicants. Interested clients can submit a housing form via the Contact page of its website: www.greenhealthyhomesmarin.org.

GHHI HUBS model

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Climate Change Inspires Collaborative Action

linda-jackson-headshot

From AAI Program Director Linda Jackson:

The largest fires ever. The blistering heat. The drought. The rain deluge. The floods.

My cousin writes from Sweden that this summer is the hottest in 200 years. That was not a typo. And the end of summer is still over six weeks away.

This past month, I experienced 100+ degree weather in Portland, Oregon, and drove through the dense smoke of northern California.

While all this is alarming, I am comforted knowing that people from all arenas are addressing the problem. The path of global warming is increasingly documented by scientists of every field. Researchers are exploring carbon sequestration. Most national governments are moving toward the carbon goals set by the Paris Accord. Car companies are developing more efficient vehicles and innovators are creating new batteries. The state of California, the fifth largest economy of the world, is a leader in setting emissions standards. And major world religions, inspired by leaders like Pope Francis, are embracing the imperative to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible.

The motto “Think globally, act locally” has never been more meaningful than today. Here in Marin, we have at least a dozen organizations tackling sustainability. We have to save the planet as it is the only ship we have.

In many ways, climate change activism is a model for our work in the Aging Action Initiative. We are building bridges, tunnels and walkways between the silos we work in – between public agencies, nonprofits, and the health sector. We have goals: to share our knowledge and expertise and findings, to advocate for policy changes, to create innovative approaches that change our work for the better.

One of those innovations is an Inform & Connect workshop happening this month. The workshop is the inspiration of the Marin Interfaith Council. It is the first of an Inform & Connect workshop tailored to specific interests, in this case, of Marin faith leaders wanting to answer the call for help from members of their congregations.

Another innovation is highlighted this month’s newsletter: the collaboration behind the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative. Making our homes more energy efficient is vital to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. GGHI is a collaborative effort that intersects safety and energy retrofits to adapt homes for older adults and to make them more energy efficient. The GHHI network shows how much can be achieved when people come together to do something new in a different way.

These summer months are a chance to slow down, look around and think. As the climate crisis shows us, we must come together to create new and more effective solutions to the challenges we see around us. Our work is essential to helping older people sustain their well-being.

We cannot give up. Our future depends on us doing this work.

~ Linda

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