Article originally featured in San Diego Union Tribune:
Chula Vista seniors can access new homelessness prevention program thanks to $350,000 grant
Laurie Orange of Community Congregational Development Corporation speaks during a press conference at Norman Park Senior Center in Chula Vista on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. The nonprofit CCDC funded the construction. (Kristian Carreon/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Serving Seniors will be helping older adults remain in their home from new program, funded by the the Community Congregational Development Corporation
BY LAUREN J. MAPP STAFF WRITER
NOV. 26, 2022 5 AM PT
Serving Seniors has received $350,000 from the Community Congregational Development Corp. to fund a new homelessness prevention program in Chula Vista.
The Senior Homelessness Prevention Program, which is funded through 2023, is one of the first such programs in San Diego County. It provides limited financial support and case management services to low-income older adults in South Bay at risk of becoming homeless.
Serving Seniors is now providing two years of rental subsidy support to 21 clients, age 63 through 82, but the organization will soon increase the number of older adults enrolled in the program to 27. The nonprofit is also distributing meals to eight of the clients and helping seniors enrolled in it to access other important support resources.
Paul Downey, Serving Seniors CEO and president, said the goal of this new program is to not only help the seniors involved with it, but to prove that shallow rent subsidies can prevent homelessness.
According to Serving Seniors, a quarter of San Diego’s homeless adults are age 55 and older — and more than 40 percent of that sector is experiencing homelessness for the first time.
During the nonprofit’s needs assessment — which was published in September 2021 — 56 percent of older adults interviewed for the study reported that an additional $300 a month or less would make a difference between whether they would become homeless.
The study also found that in order to afford rent, 34 percent of seniors who had experienced homelessness had sold personal items or medication, 45 percent had gone without food or medication and 23 percent had passed on medical care.
“The biggest impact I think is going to be peace of mind for these folks, knowing that they are safe and secure, and won’t lose their housing, at least for two years,” Downey said. “They’ll actually be able to sleep at night and not worry that each month when the rent check is due, that they might not be able to pay it or be on their way to experiencing homelessness.”
Ultimately, Downey said, preventing homelessness is much easier and cheaper than helping someone who has already become unhoused to find a new home. He said estimates show it costs between $35,000 and $50,000 a year to support someone who is unhoused when factoring in the cost of fire department and paramedic calls, hospital visits and the criminal justice system.
CCDC Director and Corporate Secretary Laurie Orange said selecting Serving Seniors for this grant was another way it could support older adults living in the South Bay. CCDC has also funded programs for legal aid for seniors, helped Meals on Wheels purchase a new food delivery van and provide meals and rental assistance through Casa Familiar.
In distributing money for the homelessness prevention effort, Orange said it will allow Serving Seniors to increase its presence and program offerings in and around Chula Vista.
“Serving Seniors is a local institution that has done wonderful work over a number of years; however, it doesn’t have a lot of presence in the South Bay,” she said. “CCDC is trying its best to woo new nonprofits and new services to the South Bay.”