The Real Value of Affordable Housing

CCH Portfolio Manager Shannon Williams shares a personal story about a past resident that crystallized for her the true value of affordable housing. She shares “Each and every day, those of us who work with seniors in affordable housing, work hard to meet the needs of our residents, HUD and many regulatory agencies who ask for many things from us. In the midst of all these demands, it is important to always keep in mind the real meaning of our efforts.”

Let me tell you the story of Paulette and how affordable housing changed her life and her death. The year was 2003 and I had been working in affordable housing for only a few months. I had a call from a former colleague with whom I worked in the mental health field. She asked if we had any vacancies, which we did. She had a patient who had been in the state hospital for over a year, simply because there was nowhere to place her. Paulette was able to live independently, but because she had become so depressed and unable to function when she was ill, this prospective resident had a bad landlord reference. She had lived in the same apartment and worked as a librarian for over 20 years. She had lost her job due to her illness and thus lost her income. She became so ill that she required hospitalization and landed in the local state hospital. She had responded to meds well and was stable. Thus, she no longer needed to remain in the hospital, but had nowhere to go.

I interviewed her and found her to be a very quiet older woman, who life had just overwhelmed in her later years. She had no family and had always met all of her own needs. Now being unable to find a place to live was risking her recovery. I agreed to rent to her and she agreed to comply with her aftercare plan.

For the next 14 years, Paulette lived in affordable housing. She paid her rent on time, her apartment was spotless and she always had a kind word for the staff and other residents. She used the site transportation for a weekly trip to the library and a nearby café for a lunch out. She came to many of the social events but was very quiet. She made friends and was a good friend to other residents. Paulette became ill several years ago and she began to not go to the library as much or out to eat at the café, but did when she could. Home health began providing services and then hospice took over. We lost Paulette this past summer. She did not die alone, but got to die in her home as she wished. Hospice provided round the clock care and was with her as she died.

To provide someone a safe and affordable place to live where they could gain their life back and then live as they wished for many years was a gift that was given to her by all of us who work in affordable housing. To die in your own home and not alone, is something many wish, but many seniors die alone in a nursing home or hospital. There are thousands of Paulettes out there. Affordable housing give them a home to live and die as they wish.

In her last days, Paulette had asked me to share her story and let everyone know how she felt CCH had provided her the gift of a safe and affordable place to live where she could live as she wished and die in her own home.

Shannon Williams
CCH Portfolio Manager


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