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Senior Benefits: Low Income Housing

The HUD low-income senior housing complex in Garberville is a cute assortment of one bedroom cottages, between the hospital and the library, on the edge of town with views from benches out to the canyons toward Alderpoint Road. The previous manager, Patti Rose, envisioned the need for the housing back in the last century, worked for years organizing the project, and after complicated delays with permits and contractors, the senior village complex was finally approved, built, and it’s been operating for about twenty years. (Pattie Rose, local hero.) 

Over the last couple years I’ve been encouraging, ie, semi-harassing, my senior friends to get the help they qualify for, and a few have applied for and received SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and food stamps. My latest mission is pestering them to get on the senior housing waiting list, even though they are still able to live in their rustic cabins out in the hills, though life is getting harder for these seventy-somethings, dealing with firewood and water systems. (Sometimes I think, jeez dude, just mind your own business, but as the unofficial “King of the Scammers,” or should I say “Court Jester,” I do have dirt road cred.)

I was about to gently suggest one more time that they get on the list, couldn’t hurt, but I needed to clarify one eligibility question before I continued my possibly annoying busybody behavior: If you own property, or are partners on a piece of land on which you live, would you still be eligible for this federal program? 

When I drove up to the complex on Hallowe’en I ran into the resident maintenance man, a genial guy who is provided with the only two-room cottage where he and his wife live as part of his salary. He introduced me to the manager and I explained to her that I was looking for information about qualifying for residency, particularly about the question of owning real estate. (I didn’t get the answer on that visit but later someone told me that if you’re partners in a piece of land, the situation with my two friends, then you can’t readily sell it so you are eligible. However, that needs to be confirmed with HUD.) 

I got the general lay-out from the very informative manager:

There are twenty living units which are completely empty when a tenant arrives, each new resident must supply all their furniture and everything else they need. They pay a third of their income for rent, their electricity use is gauged by the PGE box next to each cottage, and gas, phone, and any television or internet hookup is also their financial responsibility. (All the cottages have gas wall heaters, and there is a minimal complex-wide wifi signal, but it’s very weak.)

Sixteen dwellings have walk-in shower stalls and four have tubs with showers. The estimated wait time for one of the tub rooms is about two years and about four years for rooms with shower stalls, which are more desirable because elders find it more difficult to get into bath tubs.) The units at the ends of the grounds are the best because they have little patios attached, so far this year two cottages have become available for new residents. 

There are currently sixteen women and four men living there with the minimum age requirement of sixty-two. One pet per residence is allowed with a weight limit of thirty pounds. A resident is allowed to have a caregiver live with them and, according to the current manager, the county will pay them for their services. A family member can also live with a resident as a caregiver and be paid by the county.

The income limit per resident is $28,000, $33,000 for a couple, and all the residents receive Social Security (SSA) or SSI. Any income a resident may get from an annuity, or other interest received from an investment, is counted as income. (You can have investments like stocks and bonds, and as long as you don’t take interest or dividend payments from your brokerage account it doesn’t count as income, but it will probably take longer to be approved.) 

The manager says the job has a lot of computer work, for example inputting the rent cheques each month and filling out forms for HUD, also great benefits, and it’s nice working for the Christian organization which owns the place. (They let everyone off work early for Hallowe’en.) She got the forty-hour-a-week job in August, put in her one month notice the day before I talked to her, and is going back to Southern California where she has family members very ill, as well as an aunt who just went missing. 

(As I was leaving the grounds I ran into a resident who said everyone is well-behaved except for one person. He’s belligerent, spray paints graffiti on the walls, and had spattered the managers face with spit while shouting curse words at her. She said that’s been going on for years but it’s been tolerated until recently when the police were called. Now there’s some legal action happening, a couple misdemeanors to deal with, which could get him kicked out. 

“It used to be more fun with weekly bingo games in the meeting room,” she said, “but now we’re on lockdown because of that guy causing the problems.”)

Applications available at the office, and they do run background checks on potential residents.

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