Throughout my time working at B’nai B’rith, I have had the opportunity to tour a majority of our sponsored senior housing properties around the country. Recently, I visited B’nai B’rith Covenant House in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, helping to welcome Rep. Glenn Grothman to the building. Before the congressman visited, I spoke with residents of the building and noticed how eager they were to advocate for seniors programs like affordable housing. What impressed me the most was that residents were more concerned with building additional senior housing across the country, which would help more seniors, and less worried about current rental reform proposals that could negatively impact them. It was reassuring that their first instincts were to address the affordable housing crisis facing low-income seniors who did not already have the benefit of subsidized safe and affordable housing, as they did.
Over the past few years I have written numerous blogs detailing how policy proposals debated here on Capitol Hill, could impact older Americans. However, I thought it might be appropriate to highlight one of the faces behind HUD affordable housing for seniors. While visiting Covenant House, I had the pleasure of speaking with Evelyn Brazelton.
Evelyn has been happy to call Covenant House home since August 2018. While originally from Wisconsin, she never stayed in one town long enough to establish roots. Since her father worked on farms as a field hand, the family continuously moved around the state so her dad could find work. Evelyn said that because of the constant moving, coupled with her shy personality, she was never able to establish real friendships with other children. She always considered herself dedicated to family and at 19 married her high school boyfriend.
Evelyn was blessed to have five children and was a homemaker until she was 40, when she started attending technology school with a focus on math and banking. This allowed her to work as a commercial loan assistant for a bank and at a dentist’s office tasked with accounting and receptionist duties.
Prior to returning to Wisconsin, Evelyn lived with her children in California and Minnesota. Like so many seniors, she did not want to be a burden on her kids, and initially looked for HUD affordable housing in California. Unfortunately, while not surprising, the waiting list for senior housing in California was a year. Evelyn is no different than countless seniors in our country whose only source of income is Social Security, and who were unable to save enough for retirement and are placed on HUD senior housing waiting lists. Just look to B’nai B’rith housing communities across the country where waiting lists to get into our sponsored Section 202 properties can be a year or longer, or even closed.
Finally, while living with her son in Minnesota, Evelyn got the call that Covenant House had a vacant unit she could call home.
Evelyn has absolutely loved her time living in Covenant House. For instance, she adores the small community feel and, because of her bad back, she appreciates how the building is customized for older persons. Furthermore, she enjoys developing friendships with the other people in the building.
Evelyn has been sick with anemia and she raves about the support in the building from her fellow residents. She talks about how friends in the building go with her to doctor appointments and bring her food. In return, Evelyn tries to be supportive of others in the building who are dealing with health concerns and donates excess clothing to other residents.
Like many residents at Covenant House, Evelyn wants to know why additional HUD senior housing is not being created. With of the aging of the large baby boomers demographic, she doesn’t understand why our government is not prioritizing housing.
Every building in the B’nai B’rith community has someone like Evelyn. Her story, while interesting, is also common throughout HUD senior housing. She is someone who raised a family and had a professional career, but was unable to save enough for retirement. Programs like HUD senior housing make life just a little easier for older Americans. Consequently, Congress and the White House should be taking Evelyn’s advice, and do everything possible to create more affordable housing for seniors.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Assistant Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. He holds a B.A. from American University in political science and a J.D. from New York Law School. Prior to joining B’nai B’rith International he worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence for the Obama White House, practiced as an attorney at Covington and Burling, LLP, worked as an aide for New York City Council Member Tony Avella and interned for Congressman Gary Ackerman’s office. Click here to read more from Evan Carmen.
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