Homes First: A Place to Call Home

black and white photo of Peter J. Crowley, Homes First tenant, in a chair by a window
Peter J. Crowley, Homes First tenant. Photo courtesy: Homes First
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Submitted by Homes First

Life is expensive, and perhaps no age group feels that more acutely than our senior citizens. While Washington State is unlikely to become the number one retirement mecca that sunny Florida has been for years, our state’s senior numbers are growing and will continue to do so as the Baby Boomer generation ages.

The largest expense for those who are retired probably comes as no surprise. It’s housing. Sadly, many of our oldest residents may be just one crisis away from the potential of becoming homeless. That’s why the services of local nonprofit Homes First are so critical.

Shockingly, a recent study found that half of the U.S. adults who are experiencing homelessness were over age 50, compared to only 11% in the early 1990s. And some 44% of these people were never homeless before, meaning that life on the streets is not something they know or are in any way prepared for.

Homes First, founded by forward-looking local leaders in 1990, has a simple mission: to provide safe, healthy and affordable rental homes to those who need them most, including seniors, who make up about 7% of its residents. Once they have a home through Homes First, senior citizens can remove one worry from their lives.

“One of the best things I like about seniors living in a Homes First home, that is very relatable to many seniors, is that even if their only income is Social Security, no matter what, we make sure their rent remains affordable,” explains Homes First Director of Development Shannon Michlitsch. “And we treat them with dignity and respect.”

Peter J. Crowley, 72, a retired professional photographer, is thankful for the sunny Homes First one-bedroom apartment he moved into eight years ago. “If I need something, they take care of it,” he shares.

After providing the stability and safety that comes with having a roof over their heads, Homes First connects people to other local services they may need, such as Senior Services of South Sound.

A new area of growth for senior housing, including at Homes First, is “accessory dwelling units,” or ADUs, which are smaller living units built on the property of another residence. Two such units are under construction through Homes First.

Such unique living options can be more affordable than independent or assisted living communities, which can run from $1,500 to $10,500 a month, depending on location and services.

That expense is simply beyond the reach of many older Americans. According to AARP, more and more seniors are delaying retirement or holding part-time jobs just to make ends meet. Pension programs, which were standard a generation ago, are becoming rare relics. While 35% of those working in the private sector could count on them 30 years ago, that number is only 13% now. AARP reports that more than 6.4 million seniors over age 65 live below the federal poverty level.

Yet programs like Homes First, with its proven track record of successfully housing very low income folks, require a great deal of community support, from corporate, government, and individual donors and volunteers.  To learn more about Homes First and ways you can take part in their valuable local mission, visit the Homes First website.

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