Managing Mental Health After a Year of Living with a Pandemic
By Janel Doughten
The past year, the coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to our world and all generations. I want to emphasize COVID-19 has hit older adults especially hard due to the fact that people over 65 had the highest rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Social isolation, already an issue for many older adults, became an even greater issue for most of the residents of our senior housing network. Local, state and federal guidance on lockdowns was issued to protect those most vulnerable to the virus. Limiting visitors and most in-person contact with building staff and each other as part of that guidance took a toll on the mental health of those same older adults.
As the COVID-19 vaccine has become available and society is beginning to open up, the mental health toll of the past year living with the pandemic restrictions and social isolation has become apparent. When B’nai B’rith on-site building staff were asked about the most pressing issues in their buildings at this time, most cited resident mental health issues as the number one issue.
Many of our residents experienced anger and frustration as lockdowns were lifted and then reinstated during the subsequent waves of the virus. As the nation and our buildings are again lifting mask mandates and physical distancing restrictions, many of our residents may continue to feel anxious, depressed and have trouble managing their anger and frustration. Recognizing when trauma may be affecting mental health, engaging in self-care and realizing when professional care is needed is a first step to managing mental health.
According to the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging conducted in January 2021, a national sample of U.S. adults age 50–80 were asked about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health symptoms. According to the poll, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the well-being of many older adults. About one in five poll respondents said their overall mental health was worse since the pandemic started, consistent with the one in five who reported experiencing worse sleep, depression and anxiety since March 2020. Nearly half of adults age 50–80 reported feeling regularly stressed and isolated from others. These symptoms were common and experienced more frequently by women, those with lower annual household incomes and those with worse physical health. Contributors to worse mental health during this time may have included pandemic-related challenges (isolation, concerns about illness) as well as stress from economic and political conditions.”
The good news is that the poll also noted that many older adults credited their wisdom, life experiences and resiliency with helping them to overcome the challenges posed by the isolation, as well as a sense of purpose helping others. Many B’nai B’rith residents volunteered to help distribute supplies and food deliveries for other residents and checked in with each other during the past year. Finding that sense of community even in the worst of times can help create that resiliency for everyone, including our residents, to move beyond the trauma of the past year.
Please stay well, everyone!
The following are mental health resources you may wish to look at for more information:
National Coalition for Mental Health and Aging
Mental Health America National 2021 Toolkit
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency
A Note from the Chair
By Marvin Siflinger
As we head into summer, the pandemic is finally looking like it’s starting to end. Vaccinations are in full swing, businesses are returning to normal and families are able to connect in person. While we are not out of the woods yet, you get the sense that the worst is behind us. Everyone has adapted to the “new normal” over the past 15 months, with the Center for Senior Services (CSS) being no exception. As everyone is aware, all of the CSS network trainings have transitioned to Zoom and it feels like we haven’t missed a beat.
Since I last wrote to you, I am thrilled to share the first Annual B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Virtual Training, which took place in March 2021, was a big success. This new, triannual conference will continue as a virtual training even after the pandemic is over. For those who were not able to attend, the format involved internal stakeholders, using the resident experts from the CSS staff to create interactive workshops, and included many opportunities for the network to share best practices with each other. The two-day training was open to all members of the board of directors, staff and service coordinators. This year, the training focused on emergency preparedness in light of the pandemic, the role of board members, ways to combat social isolation, resident and staff appreciation and other relevant topics. This year’s meeting was well attended, with about sixty members. We are excited to see this training become a staple of our yearly programming.
While it remains unclear when we will meet in person again, rest assured our training conferences will continue virtually in the meantime.
In addition, CSS staff continues to hold Zoom meetings with the staff of the housing network. The meetings were held weekly from March 2020 to March 2021 and are now being held every other week. CSS staff are able to work with the building staff to let them know the updated guidance from the various federal agencies and to share best practices during the pandemic.
Lastly, while I have said this before, a big thank you! to our housing network for their exemplary work during the pandemic. Your work has made the lives of our residents easier and safer during very challenging times.
Have a great summer!
A Note from the Co-Chair
As we continue the 50th Anniversary of the Center for Senior Services (CSS), we celebrate “an idea whose time has come.” The dedication, commitment and creativity of the staff over the years have been the driving force in creating 38 affordable housing communities across the United States. Over the years, these communities have provided a supportive place to call home, enhancing independence and dignity for older adults.
We are privileged to have a strong network of volunteers who have been invaluable in the success of the housing program. Behind the scenes, they have supported the vision CSS established 50 years ago. These individuals have served as board members of the B’nai B’rith communities, ensuring that secure and affordable housing will continue to be available far into the future.
There is an expression in Hebrew, L’ dor V’ dor, which translates to: “from generation to generation.” I share this particular phrase with you because there are several B’nai B’rith communities that have adult children of the original board members or founders, who are currently serving on the boards (me included!). My father, Walter Wolff, was a member of B’nai B’rith Rainer Lodge in Baltimore when I was a young child. My kiddish cup was a gift from the lodge when I was born. This makes my affiliation with B’nai B’rith International so meaningful to me, to know that I am participating with an organization that my father was active with throughout his life.
In 2004 I was recruited by Michael Levy, then board president at Covenant House in Tucson, Arizona, to help open the Wellness Center. Years later when I left Covenant House to work with our Area Agency on Aging, I asked to serve on the board as not to lose the connections with the community. Being a board member the past 14 years has truly been an extraordinarily rewarding experience. It has been an honor to partner with the talented members of our board interacting with the residents living at Covenant House. I have also been incredibly lucky to join the CSS staff and residents from B’nai B’rith communities at the Residents Leadership Retreat at Camp Pearlman the past three sessions. Camp is the best! It’s so special and dear to my heart. You will certainly hear more about camp later this summer as part of the 50th Anniversary campaign, too!
As we proudly celebrate our golden anniversary, we share the visions of all the creative individuals, whose forward thinking has provided more than a home for so many older adults. Join me in continuing to take a stand in setting the standards as leaders in offering this necessary commodity for one our greatest resources: older adults.
What Has Staff Been Up To?
Janel attended the National Council on Aging’s Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Day (OAMHAD) symposium, held virtually in May.
She has also rejoined the board of directors of St. Mary’s Court starting in September 2021. St. Mary’s Court is a Section 202 senior housing building located in Washington, D.C. Janel has previously served as president of the board.
We are excited to share that Evan Carmen and his wife Jennifer are the proud parents of Bari Leora Carmen, who joined the B’nai B’rith family April 26, 2021. Congratulations, Evan!
On the Hill
By Evan Carmen
Congress Begins Work on FY22 Budget
The Center for Senior Services (CSS) staff continues our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill, focusing our efforts on FY22. We are advocating for continued funding for the following:
As always, we teamed with the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) to further our advocacy efforts. We met with staff members from the following offices:
Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) Katherine Clark (D-Mass.)
Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) Norma Torres (D-Calif.)
John Boozman (R-Ark.) Kay Granger (R-Texas)
Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) John Rutherford (R-Fla.)
Chris Coons (D-Del.) Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.)
Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Pete Aguilar (D- Calif.)
Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) House Appropriations
Rick Scott (R-Fla.) Mike Garcia (R-Calif.)
Senate Appropriations David Trone (D-Md.)
Grace Meng (D-N.Y.)
Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.)
As Congress and the White House approach the summer, we expect legislation to be debated about infrastructure. We are encouraged that the White House’s infrastructure plan encompasses affordable housing and hope that includes affordable senior housing. B’nai B’rith is eager to analyze the final legislation.
B’nai B’rith Meets with HUD
In April, we met with the Ethan Handelman, the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing at HUD, and advocated for our housing network. We are eager to work with new administration on strengthening and expanding affordable senior housing.
Special Edition: A Note from the Director
By Mark Olshan
As part of the Center for Senior Service’s (CSS) golden anniversary, we’re diving into our stories over the years and who we are at CSS. I’d like to share a bit about me—how I came to B’nai B’rith International and how I’ve seen CSS grow and evolve over the years.
For those of you who may not be aware, I have been working at B’nai B’rith since June 1983. I was the first full-time director of what was then referred to as the B’nai B’rith Senior Citizens Housing Program. Prior to my arrival at B’nai B’rith, the program had been operating under the auspices of the Community and Veterans Services (CVS) Department, but didn’t have a person dedicated full-time to the seniors program. It was handled by three employees who were trying to manage a number of community-oriented programs, along with a variety of B’nai B’rith volunteers, in communities around the country.
When the founder of the program stepped down as volunteer chairman, it was decided that it was time to hire a full-time staff person to coordinate the various projects and operate the program as a more coordinated network. Harvey Gerstein, at the time president of the St. Louis Covenant House properties in St. Louis, was asked to serve as national volunteer chairman, and I was brought on to work as the professional liaison to his Volunteer Committee. My duties were to assist in the continuance of the program’s on-going activities and to help grow the program in numbers and in scope.
And I must admit that we have been quite successful in both those areas.
When I arrived on the scene on June 1, 1983 the program had already been awarded 16 funding awards from HUD, which resulted in 16 buildings constructed in 13 communities. Quite an impressive achievement! Additionally, representatives of these properties were meeting yearly and sharing their best practices to strengthen their own operations. They also teamed together to try to grow the program as a whole for B’nai B’rith.
Now, with a dedicated staff person (me), the program was expected to expand and grow, and grow we did. We are now the largest national Jewish sponsor of HUD-assisted housing in the country, having received a total of 41 HUD funding awards and constructing properties in 38 communities across the country!
Of course, this was all in concert with the local B’nai B’rith volunteers helping to organize and submit applications to HUD for funding awards. Believe me, I have quite the stories to tell about each one of the properties. I’ve had the privilege of working with ALL of them!
We became involved with and served on numerous Industry/HUD task forces designed to strengthen the housing programs and make them operate more efficiently. I started a regular newsletter that was circulated throughout the network, which still exists today and is now deemed the Seniority Report. The newsletter is now created and edited by Gracie Cohen, senior program associate here at CSS. We helped organize and were a founding member of the original Elderly Housing Coalition, pulled together to be an advocate for increasing the numbers of apartments funded and improving communication with HUD and Capitol Hill. We advocated strongly to include Service Coordination as an integral part of senior housing facilities, among other important issues over the years.
Additionally, we expanded the Annual Conference on Senior Housing to include a second meeting each year, specifically for the property management professionals. In 1987, I led the first Resident Leadership Retreat. Two residents from each B’nai B’rith sponsored building stayed at Camp Perlman, our B’nai B’rith International youth camp, in the Pennsylvania mountains. We provided the tools and knowledge on how to organize Resident Councils and how to be more involved resident leaders in their own communities. The residents also got a relaxing camp environment as a mini vacation and a thank you for all the work they did at their own facilities. Later this summer, expect to see a special highlight on the camp as part of our 50th Anniversary.
Obviously, as a one-man-band back in the early days, I could only do so much. Having the ability to hire competent staff to work with over the years has made my job so much easier and able to “service” the network so much better. Bringing on Janel, Gene Fogel (of blessed memory), Morgan Gable, Jayme Levy, Rachel Goldberg, Evan Carmen and, of course, Gracie Cohen has been my life’s dream and a long way from first being told, “Here is your office, these are your files, organize them anyway you’d like. And, oh, GOOD LUCK!”
Wow, it’s been a long ride!
Cheers to 50 years!
2021 Virtual Management and Services Coordinators Training Recap
By Gracie Cohen
Around 70 participants from the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network attended the annual Management and Service Coordinators Training June 8-10, 2021. For the second consecutive year, the training was held over Zoom due to the pandemic.
This year, sessions focused on mental health and the well-being of staff and residents.
Malika Moore, MSW, LICSW, LCSW-C, Executive Director, Aging & Amazing, highlighted that residents are carrying more than what meets the eye. Behind their physical appearance, residents may face several challenges including food insecurity, loneliness, domestic violence, health complications, and more. Now at 17 months into the pandemic, many continue to deal with another invisible challenge: stress. Moore shared several ideas to the management professionals and service coordinators on how to help manage mental health. These would include, but not limited to: facilitating faith or spiritual groups, seeking therapy for an objective viewpoint, holding social classes to engage residents, and offering respite for fellow caregivers (i.e, holding a caregivers support group in the building).
Other mental-health-related sessions included “How the Pandemic Changed the Staff and Residents/How to Stay Healthy and Balanced Moving Forward” from Abbie Stone, who is co-chair of Center for Senior Services. Stone emphasized the importance of meditation and mindfulness, which are included in a list of resources she shared with the group.
This year’s training featured a HUD update from Robert Iber, Senior Advisor in the Office of Multifamily Housing Programs at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as “Fair Housing & Inclusion: How it Applies From Marketing to Current Resident,” from well-known B’nai B’rith speaker, Amanda Atkins, President, Atkins Consulting Professionals. For the service coordinators, Melissa Harris, Director of Government Affairs, American Association of Service Coordinators shared, “The Role of the Service Coordinator in 2021.”
Special to the nature of this online training, CSS staff facilitated five breakout rooms for participants, where each group worked on a hypothetical resident and/or staff conflict (all of the studies were based on real incidences that occurred throughout the year from the buildings). Some of the dilemmas revolved around how to best prepare for and or manage those who opted out of the COVID-19 vaccine. A snapshot of questions that were debated include:
Of course, the training would not be complete with our own in-house experts sharing their knowledge. Our own Evan Carmen, Legislative Director for Aging Policy gave a federal update to participants. For those who did not attend certain days of the program, Janel Doughten, Associate Director, gave an overview of fair housing and mental health highlights from the previous days. And I, the Senior Program Associate management and service coordinators were provided with free online program resources, especially as technology will continue to be an important tool for connection moving forward.
Make sure you view the full program agenda, speaker bios, and presentations on the Virtual Training page here. We look forward to having this training in-person next year. Fingers crossed we make it to New Orleans in 2022!
B’nai B’rith Apartments in Allentown, Pennsylvania: Staff and Board Insight with Neil Forgosh, Bob Sipos and Barbra Butz
By Gracie Cohen
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed. The full video interview will be available for viewing on the B’nai B’rith website in May.
Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International and director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services, chatted with Neil Forgosh, Bob Sipos and Barbra Butz, all connected through their service at B’nai B’rith Apartments in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The interview captures the essence of the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing spirit: those who are in the network (sometimes even spanning a generation or two, as you’ll learn from Barbra Butz) genuinely commit to the well-being of senior residents and their housing needs. Neil Forgosh, an original board member and subsequent president of the board, shares his experience on how he became involved with the residence. Bob Sipos is the longest original serving property manager in the B’nai B’rith network, with over 40 years! He shares what keeps him going day in and day out. And Barbra Butz highlights her experience with B’nai B’rith Apartments, starting at just 10 years old, when her father was the original board president. She now serves as the current board president.
Mark: Neil and Bob, this photo might jog your memory. What do you remember about it? What was it like when those tenants moved into the building?
Neil Forgosh: That is Jack Singer on the far left, one of the people who went to the meeting and told me about the housing project.
Bob Sipos: They were thrilled to be there. Because it was a brand-new building, they had their pick of apartments. They were the first people in the building for a few days … and when I left at night, I felt so bad leaving them. I gave them my home phone number and pager, and said, “If you need anything let me know.” They were fine the next morning, they were happy … but I was really concerned about them.
Mark: Neil, you have been involved with the building since before it even opened. As one of the driving forces behind the property, can you explain that process?
Neil Forgosh: Abe Cramer and Jack Singer had went to a board meeting, where the concept was brought up. Arnold Tannenbaum was the president at the time, who was a fraternity brother of mine. He asked me what I thought of it and I said, “It sounds interesting!” The reality of it, if it wasn’t for Abe, it wouldn’t have happened. We had been talking about a piece of property that was for sale in a lumber yard. I saw on the news one day there was a fire at the lumber yard … and knew we got it. I called Abe, told him we had the property. From that point on, it rolled right through. We interviewed Bob Sipos for that [property manager] job.
Both buildings have been 100% occupied since day one. Bob and the people they’ve hired have been phenomenal. I am duly impressed with the new manager.… They have controlled the coronavirus within the building … and have been very, very good at keeping the building healthy.
Mark: Bob, can you talk to us how you got involved?
Bob Sipos: I had been a schoolteacher prior but had heard about HUD senior housing development.
The board selected me to help run the property. … The board has always been supportive of me. I have a great staff; I was very happy. The board always took good care of me and also took good care of the building. … I’ve had the opportunity of being able to come into my job for 40-plus years, where I look forward to coming in every day.
Giving people housing that make their lives much easier and much more affordable is the real pay-back, and just helping them spend the rest of their lives in a comfortable, secure setting.
Mark: Barbra, you are the current president of the board. Can you talk about how you got involved? And how have you found your role of president?
Barbra Butz: My dad was Arnold Tannenbaum, and I remember when he was building the apartments, I was 10 years old. It was a big deal in my house! We would go and see the construction site—my dad was very proud of it. My dad did pass away in 1983, right when the second building was finished. Not too long after, my mother joined the board. … She was also president for a 15-year period. I joined the board in 1999, and she was president at that time. Soon after I joined the board, I started to teach craft classes each month. I really got to know the residents. One of them was Bob’s mother, who was lovely. I got to know the women really well. They would share how they felt about living in the building. Some of them had hard, difficult lives with a lot of trauma. More than one of them had said to me this was by far the best place they had ever lived. And they were so grateful. It really stays with me in every decision we make around the board room, in knowing that we’re helping someone in their twilight years, when you just want to relax and feel safe and secure.
Check out the full interview in May, where you’ll hear more from Neil, Bob and Barbra on their experiences at B’nai B’rith Apartments.
Stay tuned for upcoming interviews with original staff and board members as part of CSS’ 50th Anniversary campaign this year.
Cheers to 50 years!
Correction: March 22, 2021
An earlier version of this story misspelled Barbra Butz’s first name as Barbara.
Happy 50th Birthday B’nai B’rith Senior Housing!
By Evan Carmen
This is an exciting year for the Center for Senior Services (CSS), celebrating our 50th anniversary! B’nai B’rith sponsors Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) affordable housing across the country and currently our network comprises 38 buildings and serves about 5,000 people, making us the largest national Jewish sponsor of subsidized housing in the United States.
B’nai B’rith’s housing footprint is across the country with buildings from New York to California, down to Florida and everywhere in between. We began providing HUD-assisted senior housing in 1971, when we opened our first sponsored building B’nai B’rith Apartments in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Not bad for fifty years!
Our housing network isn’t just about ribbon cutting ceremonies; it’s so much more. Mark D. Olshan, associate executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International and director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services, was responsible for expanding our annual Conference on Senior Housing and starting our onsite staff training for management professionals. These trainings are a great opportunity for the B’nai B’rith housing community to come together, network with each other, and hear from experts in the field on how to make our individual buildings the best they can be for our residents.
Mark is also responsible for starting the bi-annual Resident Leadership Retreat, operating since 1987. This retreat not only connects fellow resident leaders throughout the B’nai B’rith housing network but provides many tools to strengthen their communities back home. Residents participate in intensive, day-long workshops regarding resident councils and by-laws, address language and culture barriers, communicate with management, publish a newsletter, spend time with campers doing intergenerational programing and more.
Since these programs’ inception, Janel Doughten, associate director of the Center for Senior Services, has taken over coordinating them, adding to the content and therefore value to the participants. Under Janel and our late co-worker Gene Fogel’s leadership, the annual staff training was expanded from just the managers to additional onsite staff including assistant managers, activity coordinators and service coordinators and is now called the B’nai B’rith Managers and Service Coordinators Training. The retreat was also expanded from three days to seven. These changes have provided for significantly more programing and training for additional staff and residents to bring back to their buildings. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all training has moved to a virtual platform and has expanded to include a weekly Zoom meeting with the onsite building staff. Sharing ideas and best practices—especially during a nationwide emergency—is one of the main benefits of being part of our housing network.
During the year CSS will be highlighting our housing community through our media platforms. Expect video conversations between B’nai B’rith staff and volunteers discussing our organization’s rich history with affordable housing and the Resident Leadership Retreat. We intend on spotlighting our sponsored properties with fun facts and pictures, and interviews of our building’s board members and staff. Some of our staff and volunteers have been with the buildings since their creation. Also, it’s possible current B’nai B’rith residents could make an appearance to say hello and share their experiences.
Clearly there is lots to talk about and we are excited to share!
I have been privileged working at B’nai B’rith for the past four years, however my colleagues Mark and Janel have worked at the organization for 37 and 28 years, respectively. They rightfully talk about our senior housing program with pride. I hope during CSS’ 100th anniversary we will be able to highlight even more accomplishments in the name of affordable senior housing.
A Note from the Chair
By Marvin Siflinger
As we begin 2021, the B’nai B’rith Housing Network is excited to celebrate our 50th anniversary. With people practicing social distancing, the Center for Senior Services (CSS) will be highlighting our housing program through our internet platforms. We are eager to share all the great moments over the past 50 years. Everyone’s hard work has contributed to B’nai B’rith being the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income housing for seniors in the United States.
I suspect each of us can remember how we got involved and are thankful for the opportunity to serve the senior housing community. My relationship with our network started in 1979. At the time, I was director for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) office in New England, in charge of programming. A group of B’nai B’rith volunteers approached HUD about building a property in Boston, which today is Irving B. Matross Covenant House. As you can see (above/below, etc location of picture) by the picture, they were a large group, and I was happy to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony. In 1982 the building opened to residents, with 150 units.
In 1996, after leaving public service, I became a member of my local B’nai B’rith housing organization. Fast forward a few years later, and I was a founding board member and president of B’nai B’rith Housing of New England (B’nai B’rith Housing), a nonprofit housing developer committed to providing affordable housing in the Boston metropolitan community under the auspices of B’nai B’rith. Working with B’nai B’rith Housing has allowed me to participate in the expansion of Covenant House and the creation of additional affordable housing properties throughout the Boston area. Today, I am a member of B’nai B’rith International’s executive committee, grateful for the opportunity to work under this organization’s banner and excited about what the future holds.
On a different note, both annual CSS training conferences were held virtually in 2020 because of the pandemic. Due to the popularity of these trainings, CSS will host an additional virtual training this coming Sunday and Monday, March 1thand March 15th. The two-day training will include interactive sessions, as well as training for the onsite building staff and board of directors of the housing network. Looking to the future after the pandemic, the two annual trainings will resume as in-person training. However, this additional early spring training will remain as a virtual meeting for years to come.
Looking forward to seeing everyone on Sunday and celebrating B’nai B’rith Senior Housing throughout the year.
A Note from the Co-Chair
By Dennis Rice
This issue, Center for Senior Services commemorates and celebrates 50 years of senior housing. B’nai B’rith’s first senior housing facility was established in 1971 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, paving the way for many more buildings B’nai B’rith would co-sponsor. In this special note, here is a little bit of my background and how I became involved in the Center for Senior Services:
I began my association with B’nai B’rith 56 years ago, seven years before the Center for Senior Services was formed. In 1970 I became the executive director of the Michigan and Metropolitan Detroit councils, representing 35 lodges and units.
Once the first building came under the auspices of B’nai B’rith, the lodges and state associations looked to join the bandwagon. We now have a senior housing network of 38 buildings across the United States, serving approximately 5,000 residents. B’nai B’rith also sponsors senior residences in Canada, Israel, Australia and New Zealand, each funded and governed by programs in the host country.
In Deerfield Beach, Florida, where I serve as president of the board, our first apartment building opened in 1987. The second building opened in 1994 and the third building opened in 2008. The last two buildings opened under Arthur Fentin, who served as the Deerfield Beach Apartments’ president for over 20 years. In 2007, I was asked by Arthur to join the board. The next year I was elected vice president, and in 2019 I was elected president when Arthur moved to Philadelphia to be with his family. I had made a deal with Arthur that I would take over as president on his 100th birthday. He however made me take over six years early, when he was 94. I deem it an honor to serve the Deerfield board and B’nai B’rith, which has been a part of my life for over three-quarters of my existence, if you include AZA. I was privileged to chair the 2011 and 2017 B’nai B’rith Annual Housing Conferences in South Florida, where I learned so much about senior housing.
I get such satisfaction when I walk around our buildings and see such happy and content faces. The residents walk around with their heads up high and feel blessed that this is their beautiful home. I understand that if it wasn’t for facilities like the ones B’nai B’rith sponsors, most our residents would be living under much more challenging, less quality circumstances. Looking ahead, we recently refinanced one of our buildings and received a considerable amount of money with which we are hopefully going to build a fourth building on our campus.
May the Center for Senior Services go from strength to strength and may our numbers grow significantly so we can bring more seniors under the umbrella of B’nai B’rith Housing.
Cheers to 50 years and more!
On the Hill
By Evan Carmen
Congress Finishes FY 2021 as B’nai B’rith looks ahead to FY 2022 and additional COVID-19 Relief
This fall and winter, our congressional outreach saw us tout the critical role affordable housing plays in the lives of seniors, in particular in light of the pandemic. As always, we teamed with the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) and advocated strongly regarding additional COVID-19 stimulus legislation and the FY 2021 budget. As of March 1st, we met with staff members from the following offices including senior staff to the House Appropriations Committee:
Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Barry Moore (R-Ala.)
Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)
Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) Steve Womack (R-Ark.)
Ben Cardin (D-Md.) Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.)
Rick Scott (R-Fla.) Mike Quigley (D-Ill.)
Bob Casey (D-Pa.)
Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Richard Shelby (R-Ala)
Congressional Legislation a Mixed Bag for Senior Housing
In December, Congress reached a bipartisan compromise to fund the government through FY 2021 and provide for additional COVID-19 stimulus. To us, the results of this legislation for the senior housing community were a mixed bag.
The good news: B’nai B’rith was pleased that Congress appropriated financial resources to fund senior housing in FY2021. This allocation will fund operating and service coordinator expenses for the program across the country. In addition, we welcome Congress’ allocation of $52 million for the creation of additional senior housing units. There is a severe dearth of affordable housing in the country, and these funds are a good start to fill that gap! We are also encouraged by Congress allocating $30 million for additional service coordinators. B’nai B’rith showed its approval for this legislation with a Facebook post on Dec. 22, 2020.
Unfortunately, separate from FY 2021, we were disappointed that there were no provisions made for low-income senior housing in response to the pandemic. We would have appreciated the additional funds for more supplies, staffing, service coordinators and Wi-Fi accessibility. We expressed our disappointment in the lack of funding for senior housing regarding the pandemic on Dec. 21, 2020, with a press release.
We hope Congress in future legislation will continue to provide support for families impacted by the pandemic and that future legislation will also include relief for affordable senior housing. While we turn the page to 2021, rest assured that our advocacy efforts are continuing as we passionately make the case for the maximum funding possible for affordable housing for seniors.
B’nai B’rith Reaches out to Congressional Offices for COVID-19 Resources
As referenced above, B’nai B’rith continuously advocates with your congressional offices. These meetings serve the additional benefit of establishing relationships for the purposes of constituent services. Upon request from several of our network members, we have reached out to congressional offices to inquire about community resources providing the COVID-19 vaccine. As always, we are at the ready to assist any building in our housing network.
B’nai B’rith looks forward to learning about the new administration’s plans for affordable senior housing. We will be reaching out to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s office of Multifamily Housing to introduce ourselves to the new appointees.
Original Resident: Carol Trombino
By Gracie Cohen
This issue, we are featuring a resident who has lived in a B’nai B’rith Senior Housing building since its grand opening. We’re deeming this resident an original resident. In this special edition Seniority Report, meet Carol Trombino and her chihuahuaPetina Weena of Gerd & Inge Strauss B'nai B'rith Manor on Pantano in Tucson, Arizona. Carol, who is 80, moved into the building with Petina Weena in September of 2006. We chatted on the phone and she also wrote a letter about her experience. Get to know more about Carol below:
When Carol first moved in, the people she met were very friendly and even willing to help her rearrange her furniture. Carol’s experience living at Strauss Manor shines light on the quality of B’nai B’rith’s senior housing as a whole.
“I would like people to know, where else could they go and live the way they live here, where everything is taken care of? It’s not just the affordable rent, but I feel so safe and secure. I was one of the first people to live in the building, and I’ve never had a problem staff couldn’t resolve,” she said.
What does she like most about living at Strauss Manor? Her list includes: how well the building is kept, how the staff are great and pay attention to you, and how friendly the residents are. Read her letter for more of her insight into living at B’nai B’rith Strauss Manor:
Dear B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network,
My chihuahua Petina and I have been living at B’nai B’rith Strauss Manor for 14-plus years, with pleasure, and hope for another 50!
Petina and I were the first residents to receive an apartment in September 2006, when the building opened its doors.
Our building is so well kept by Jose Servin, our maintenance technician, and Theresa Beaty, our manager, who both care very much about its upkeep.
Luz Servin, our service coordinator, will help you with any problem that may come your way.
I thank God that I am able to live with the caring and pleasant people who work at Strauss Manor.
Since COVID-19 safety precautions have limited much of the in-person activities, the building has not been the same. It’s too quiet! I truly can’t wait to see the residents talking, doing activities together and having fun at Strauss Manor—my lovely home— again.
Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
By Gracie Cohen
Did you know you can access neat photos of all 38 buildings in the B’nai B’rith Senior Network Housing Timeline? Did you know you can take a glimpse into the founding history of each building as well? While the housing timeline was launched on our website in the spring of 2020, the photos and historical context range from 1971 to the present. View a snapshot of a few buildings from each decade of the timeline in this special edition newsletter and be sure to check out the timeline in its entirety here.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: A Reflection on the Strength of the Network
By Janel Doughten
It has been a year since the coronavirus pandemic caused a national emergency, with most states shutting down. CSS staff have worked to keep the housing network connected, and facilitated solutions to keep the housing network staff informed and able to continue ensuring the health and safety of residents and staff through an unprecedented global pandemic.
As the rest of the country shut down and non-essential staff who could transitioned to work at home— including most of the federal government--our buildings’ staff knew that their designation as essential workers meant they would still have to come to work in the building. However, with little direction from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or other federal and state agencies, each property management company was left to navigate how that would work in their building on their own. This left the staff and boards of the housing network wrestling with decisions of what exactly a shutdown would mean for the residents and staff. They needed answers to questions such as:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local and state health departments were quick to address these issues in nursing homes, but independent living buildings were largely left to navigate the pandemic on their own in the first few months of the national shutdown.
CSS staff quickly realized a solution to help the building staff negotiate the lack of direction: tapping the strength of the network itself. We knew the network had the power to unlock and share their resources and knowledge to figure it all out together.
In mid-March, CSS began holding a weekly Zoom meeting for all building staff to share their issues and work out solutions with their peers. Eventually, these meetings also became a forum for CSS staff to share information from meetings with Congressional staff and federal agencies, as well as material from webinars and industry meetings. Zoom meetings with the building staff on a weekly basis gave CSS staff the ability to find out the current issues and get answers from federal agencies quickly.
Additionally, CSS continued with our annual training conferences, although in a virtual format, and continued to advocate for funding for the Section 202 program and other federal programs that support our residents, and addedCOVID-19 relief to the Congressional advocacy.
CSS Network Benefit: B’nai B’rith Center for Community Action and the Disaster Relief Fund
Another major benefit of being part of CSS is a connection to the greater B’nai B’rith organization, which includes the B’nai B’rith Center for Community Action (CCA) and the Disaster Relief Fund. This relationship became a lifeline to the residents of the Queens B’nai B’rith House during the spring of 2020. Many residents were left without access to food when their local grocery store temporarily shut down, coupled with the suspension of a city delivered meals program for seniors. CCA worked with the MetCouncil, a local nonprofit, to get food delivered for residents to use until the grocery store was able to reopen. At the time, many grocery stores would close for days when a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.
In February 2021, extremely cold weather, ice and snow hit the Fort Worth area of Texas, causing multiple days of power outages, lack of heat and water, and grocery store closings. CCA and CSS staff were able to contact another nonprofit, the World Central Kitchen, to facilitate delivery of freshly prepared food for residents of the Mollie & Max Barnett Apartments and the Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments.
As we moved into the vaccination phase of the pandemic, most of the buildings were able to host vaccination clinics for the residents and staff through a partnership with the CDC and local pharmacies. The building staff Zoom meetings became a way for on-site staff to share what to expect and how to prepare for the clinics to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Useful tips included ways to set up for the vaccination site, such as organizing appointments to help physically distance residents, and preparing timers and properly distanced chairs for vaccine recipients. Another method included administering the vaccine to residents door-to-door in order to maximize safety and physical distance from others.
Looking forward, the CDC recommends the continuation of COVID-19 mitigation practices such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. The network will continue to share best practices to ensure the health and safety of all residents during the worst of times and the best of times.
We know all staff in the B’nai B’rith network are working so hard to ensure residents’ safety and well-being. If you have notes of appreciation from residents you would like to share, please send them to Gracie at email@example.com.
The Power of Residents Giving Back
At Mollie & Max Barnett Apartments and Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments in Fort Worth, Texas, residents created thank-you cards for first responders. The cards are on display in the building lobby.
Residents at Gerd & Inge Strauss B’nai B’rith Manor on Pantano in Tucson, Arizona, have sewed over a hundred masks.
Residents, resident grandchildren, visitors, Fed Ex delivery drivers and students at their local elementary schools have received these home-made masks. Residents are also making baby hats and beanies for children in the hospital, and tote bags for children in foster care.
The power of residents giving back is that by helping out the community, we are all able to catch these moments of kindness and live a fuller, more quality life in the time of COVID-19.
If your residents have been volunteering to serve their communities, please send details to Gracie at Gcohen@bnaibrith.org so we can showcase their work on our webpage, as well!
A Note from the Chair
By Marvin Siflinger
As everyone is aware, this summer has been different than years prior. Backyard barbeques, sports events, concerts and other fun social gatherings have been replaced by curbside picks for dinner, visiting grandchildren by waiving through the windows and social distancing. Certainly our B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services (CSS) was no exception.
Our Managers and Service Coordinators Meeting, originally scheduled for June in New Orleans, was postponed and held virtually in July through Zoom. Representatives of the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC), the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), consultants in the field of affordable housing and B’nai B’rith staff addressed our network on issues impacting affordable housing. Discussions focused on preparedness activities regarding COVID-19. Furthermore, I am pleased to report we are continuing to hold weekly Zoom calls for our managers and service coordinators that provide updated information from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and best practices for our buildings.
Throughout the pandemic, our advocacy efforts with congressional offices are holding strong. B’nai B’rith was proud to endorse The Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020 introduced in the Senate and House by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Rep. Katie Porter, D-C.A, and Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-C.A.. It was great to see our support for the bill noted in Senator Menendez’s press release introducing the legislation. These bills provide critical funding to HUD assisted senior housing as a response to the pandemic.
In addition, I can report that B’nai B’rith has used this summer as an opportunity to further our efforts to work with our sponsored buildings on their recapitalization and refinance needs. I want to extend a big “thank you” to Dennis Rice and the board at Deerfield Beach. Because of their refinancing efforts, they were able to make a generous contribution to B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services. Contributions like this allow us to continue our quality training programs and other affordable housing efforts. As always, if anyone has any questions about recapitalization or refinance, please reach out.
I am looking forward to “seeing” everyone virtually in a few days at the Annual Housing Conference. While we usually meet in person, CSS staff has put together a strong online program providing updates on the pandemic and HUD assisted senior housing, speakers who are industry experts and chances to network amongst each other. We believe this an invaluable opportunity for our community year after year, no matter the platform.
Lastly, and most importantly, I can’t say thank you enough to our entire housing network for their outstanding work throughout the pandemic. Our managers, service coordinators, housekeeping and facility staff and have served admirably in our buildings ensuring the safety and well-being of residents.
See you in a few days!
A Note from the Co-Chair
By Abbie Stone
I hope everyone’s been healthy during these unusually challenging times we have been experiencing. We are extremely grateful to the staff at Center for Senior Services, who have provided informed guidance for the entire B’nai B’rith housing community network weekly via Zoom. The weekly meetings offer opportunities for managers and service coordinators to join with their professionals peers and share resources, strengths and challenges, which truly unified them in developing skills needed to navigate through the pandemic safely.
As a result of the unwavering dedication of the D.C. staff, Mark, Janel, Evan and Gracie, the weekly Zoom meetings resulted in an expanded partnership within local and national communities. Great acts of kindness and generosity are being exchanged in each of our communities amongst staff and residents alike, all the while practicing social distancing.
We are very lucky to have incredibly resilient and creative professionals on staff who continue to contribute to the quality of life for the individuals living in B’nai B’rith communities. Our communities have shared PPE supplies, exchanged ideas to stay connected, developed best practice to reach the vulnerable residents and continue to support each other through these unsettling times.
At Strauss Manor in Tucson. residents joined together to sew face masks for staff and other residents. In Fort Worth, Texas, the residents offered their gratitude to local heroes using their community’s bulletin board to share this message. Both communities in Tucson partnered with the Area Agency on Aging and the CARES ACT and have been able to have a local restaurant deliver Kosher meals for residents two times a week.
It seems we have all been touched in some manner by the coronavirus. At the same time, we are all learning to adjust and cope with the pandemic, including shifting the venue for our annual Senior Housing Conference online this year. I am very much looking forward to seeing you all October 18-20 to learn from HUD experts and connect with each other.
A heartfelt thank you to the D.C. team, all the local mangers and service coordinators for always being selfless and having compassion.
Spotlight on Community Partnerships
By Janel Doughten
Identifying and creating partnerships with local organizations and agencies in a building’s community is an important part of managing a senior housing building. Community partners may include, but are not limited to, local food banks and farmers markets, hospitals, police and fire departments, colleges and universities, houses of worship, the local Area Agency on Aging, banks, grocery stores and even building vendors. Identifying and maintaining these relationships is the responsibility of both the staff and boards of directors.
During the coronavirus pandemic, community relationships have taken on even greater importance. Many local governments and programs that residents rely on have been suspended or are stretched thin due to the economic crisis. Additionally, with stay-at-home orders and difficulty paying for and even locating supplies such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies, the B’nai B’rith CSS network building staff and boards of directors have become very creative in finding solutions with their community partners to make sure the most vulnerable residents have the supplies that they need.
The staff at the B’nai B’rith Gerd and Inge Strauss B’nai B’rith Manor on Pantano in Tucson, Arizona, have been able to distribute emergency food and hygiene bags for residents through donations from the board of directors and the Tucson community, including United Healthcare. Staff and some resident volunteers helped sort and distribute these much appreciated bags on an on-going basis.
The B’nai B’rith Covenant House of Tucson I/II has continued to receive grants from the Bank of America to stock food and toiletries for residents. The food and toiletries pantry was highlighted in the Spring 2020 issue of the Seniority Report.
In August, in partnership with Illinois American Water, the Living to Serve Foundation, Inc. distributed 20 food baskets to residents of Sam J. Stone B’nai B’rith Covenant Apartments I & II of Peoria, Illinois. Staff of the HyVee Grand Prairie grocery store put the baskets together and distributed them to 20 residents.
We want to thank all of the staff, boards of directors and their community partners for their continued support of the residents!
If you have a community partnership that you would like to highlight, please contact Janel Doughten firstname.lastname@example.org.
On The Hill
By Evan Carmen
B’nai B’rith advocates for Section 202 COVID-19 Relief and Funding from Congress for FY 2021
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we have called on Congress and the White House to reach a bipartisan solution that provides desperately needed economic relief – especially financial resources – for seniors who rely on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assisted housing. While the money in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) is appreciated, it does not provide adequate funding to meet the challenges of the day. The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) and the Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020 are important bills that secure funding for senior housing as a response to the coronavirus.
B’nai B’rith and the American Association of Service Coordinators have advocated strongly for additional COVID-19 stimulus legislation and amendments to the FY 2021 budget. Regarding FY 2021, the White House and Congress reached a short term deal to fund the government until December 11th. Negotiations for further funding will probably take place after Election Day. As of October 7th, a deal between Congress and the White House for additional stimulus legislation has not been reached. We met with staff members from the following offices:
Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif), Richard Shelby (R-Ala), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), John Boozman (R-Ark), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Wis.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Sylvia Garcia (R-Texas), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Andy Kim (D-N.J.), Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Al Green (D-Texas), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and John Rutherford (R-Fla.).
B’nai B’rith Supports Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020
B’nai B’rith welcomed the introduction of a Senate and House bill that would provide financial resources for senior housing in response to COVID-19. We would like to extend our thanks to Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif. and Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., for introducing the Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020.
These bills allocate $1.2 billion to senior housing, which will enable buildings to hire more staff, purchase more personal protective equipment (PPE) and deal with revenue losses due to decreased rent payments caused by the pandemic. This money also helps advance service coordination, both for buildings that already have and those that do not yet have a service coordinator. The legislation additionally provides $50 million in funding for increasing WiFi accessibility, a crucial service in an age of telehealth medicine. Better WiFi also would enable service coordinators to speak with building residents while practicing social distancing.
“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on our communities and families, it has had a relentless, devastating impact on our nation’s seniors, especially elderly Americans living in facilities that struggled with lack of protection, staff and resources,” Menendez said. “Congress has an obligation to help our most vulnerable during this crisis and that means making sure our federally- assisted senior housing facilities have the necessary resources to effectively protect and ensure residents remain safe, healthy and have access to key services during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Furthermore, we are excited that Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president of B’nai B’rith, was quoted in Menendez’s press release that introduced the legislation.
“B’nai B’rith International, as the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income, nonsectarian housing for seniors in the United States, is uniquely aware of the need to allocate additional financial resources for HUD senior housing in response to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Olshan.
“Consequently, we are pleased to support the Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020 introduced by Senator Menendez. This legislation provides critical funding for senior properties to better meet challenges associated with the virus, including the ability to purchase more personal protective equipment, expand service coordination and WiFi accessibility. During a time of national crisis, we are thankful that Senator Menendez is leading the effort in the Senate to ensure that senior housing has the resources to combat the pandemic.”
B’nai B’rith Interviews Rep. Grace Meng
In July, we were thankful that Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.J., spoke via Zoom with CEO Dan Mariaschin about how seniors in her Queens, New York, district, which includes B’nai B’rith of Queens, have been impacted by COVID-19. The discussion focused on how the community is responding to the pandemic, what Meng has done to assist seniors and what another federal stimulus package would mean for older Americans. You can access the webinar here.
B’nai B’rith Speaks Out Against Payroll Tax Cut
B’nai B’rith International is disappointed President Trump signed an executive order cutting the payroll tax. As the revenue source for Social Security, any potential cuts to the payroll tax will erode one of our nation’s most important programs for seniors. As a staunch supporter of Social Security, we understand the critical role the program plays for older Americans. Social Security funding provides vital resources so seniors can afford housing, health care and nutrition. It must not be tampered with as a substitute for federal stimulus legislation.
We are proud to have issued a press release regarding this matter on August 10th. Check out the press release here.
What Has Staff Been Up To?
By Gracie Cohen
On September 1, 2020, Janel and Evan virtually presented “Advocacy 101: Having Your Voice Heard” as part of the 2020 Virtual National Service Coordinator Conference.
Their presentation highlights how seniors can advocate on their own behalf for affordable housing, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and other programs that impact their lives. Janel and Evan discussed different strategies for advocacy, including writing and calling your elected representative, and inviting your elected representative to tour your building.
Janel and Evan are seasoned presenters on advocacy, and are regularly asked to present at various senior housing industry training conferences.
2020 Virtual Management Professionals and Service Coordinators Recap
By Gracie Cohen
While COVID-19 safety precautions prevented management professionals and service coordinators from meeting in-person this year, we were able to come together virtually through Zoom for the 2020 Management Professionals and Service Coordinators training July 21-23. Attendees from our Senior Housing Network spanned locations throughout the U.S., in addition to a few attendees from outside of the network.
This year, presentations highlighted the impact of COVID-19 and new protocols for residents and staff. Guest speakers included Amanda Atkins, president of Atkins Consulting Professionals, who shared and discussed the following updates: 2020 HUD notices, fair housing during the pandemic, policy changes, evictions during the pandemic, and emergency preparedness during the pandemic.
We also welcomed back a previous guest speaker from our conferences: Jenefer Duane, Senior Program Analyst, Office for Older Americans, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington, DC. She shed light on new frauds and scams that have emerged during the pandemic in her “Money Smarts for Older Adults Update” presentation.
Other speakers included William Benson, principal, Health Benefits ABCs LLC, representing the National Adult Protective Services Association, who presented “Working With Adult Protective Services.” Melissa Harris, director of government affairs, American Association of Service Coordinators, Tonya Balducci and Maria Medley, quality assurance directors, SPM presented survey results and ideas on to engage residents, as well as how service coordinators must maintain professional boundaries with residents.
Janel, Evan, and Gracie shared their insight with the group, too. Presentations included a federal update, a facilitated discussion on how to unite residents in a polarizing climate, and a synopsis on trauma stewardship and self-care strategies for service- coordinators.
“This was my first conference with B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services. It was a fantastic chance to chat with other property managers and service coordinators at fellow B’nai B’rith apartments. Even though it was virtual, I still got the chance to ask questions and gain resources from experts in the field from the following organizations: HUD, Adult Protective Services, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and CSS staff,” said Yvette Garwood, Property Manager at B’nai B’rith Chesilhurst House in Chesilhurst, New Jersey.
Missed any of these sessions? Want to see or re-visit any of these presentations again? You can now access the live recordings, download the presentations and handouts on our new Virtual Training page here.
Be sure to check this page regularly as we continue to hold virtual trainings and seminars and upload onto this new page.
#HometownHeroes: We Honor B'nai B'rith Senior Housing Network Staff and Volunteers
By Gracie Cohen
On behalf of B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services, we honor the staff, facilities managers, housekeeping and volunteers serving on the front lines of B’nai B’rith Senior Housing properties.
To your hard work, to your courage in a time of uncertainty, we thank you for being on the front lines.
“We want to salute and highlight the building staff who are all essential employees. They are truly upholding their communities and putting in countless hours as they deal with COVID-19,” said Janel Doughten, associate director of the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services.
A Note from the Chair
By Marvin Siflinger
Obviously, since the last Seniority Report, our world has dramatically changed because of COVID-19. Everyone’s daily lives look much different now than they did a few months ago, and that certainly holds true for the residents and staff of our sponsored B’nai B’rith senior housing buildings. First, a big thank you to you, our managers, service coordinators and housekeeping, and facility staff at our properties. You have been on the front lines at the buildings addressing residents’ concerns, fixing problems and instituting best practice procedures to combat the virus. We are happy to honor you as Hometown Heroes and feature your stories on our website and Facebook. Please feel free to send in accounts of the great work you’re doing at your buildings.
In addition, I am pleased to report that B’nai B’rith has been in constant communication with our network throughout the pandemic. We have held weekly conference calls for the managers, service coordinators and our buildings’ boards of directors. During these meetings, we have provided updated guidance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the rest of the federal government on matters that impact your buildings and residents. Also, we have been happy to connect our network with your congressional delegation to obtain local health department contact information and reach out to HUD to get administrative questions answered. As always, if B’nai B’rith can be helpful on anything throughout the crisis, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Despite the pandemic, B’nai B’rith has continued to hold meetings with your congressional offices to advocate for senior affordable housing funding for the FY 2021 budget and COVID-19 stimulus legislation. While we were enthused the last stimulus bill included money for affordable housing, we believe additional funds would be appropriate to meet the challenges associated with this pandemic.
Lastly, I am happy to report that we are continuing to work with you on your recapitalization and refinance needs. If anyone has any questions about recapitalization or refinance, we stand at the ready to assist.
With an uncertain future in front of us, I am pleased our B’nai B’rith Washington, D.C., staff has and will continue to be a valuable resource for our communities. Please regularly check your emails for updates from B’nai B’rith on HUD guidance and dates and times of conference calls.
If there is anything you might need, please don't hesitate to reach out.
Stay safe and well.
A Note from the Co-Chair
By Dennis Rice
Let me start off by giving a huge thank you to the B’nai B’rith Housing staff, maintenance workers and volunteers who are working on the front lines. You all are essential workers doing everything you can for the residents. As you’ll read throughout the newsletter, B’nai B’rith honors you all through the #HometownHeroes campaign. Be sure to check the CSS website and Facebook for these photos. I would also like to acknowledge the CSS staff including Mark, Janel, Evan and Gracie for the proactive way you have searched for and shared tools for our local staff to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am thrilled by how CSS staff and the network have come together through weekly conference calls. They continue to work through these challenging times and share resources with each other. One major concern is how to engage residents while adhering to social distancing. The last thing we want our residents to face is social isolation and depression, when this is the time to stay connected. Staff members have shared their handouts and activities with each other, which you will also find on the CSS webpage. And following a webinar, Janel provides her insight into combating social isolation. You all are doing incredible work!
We are grateful to have the boards serve the residents during this crisis, too. Board members are assisting their facilities by going shopping, and even making arrangements with local grocery stores to open early for their residents. I cannot emphasize enough to please reach out if there is a need in your building.
B’nai B’rith is here for you.
I’m also proud to share the B’nai B’rith Stories of Hope campaign with you all. CSS staff is looking for stories on what helps you get through these tough times. We hope your stories will lift each other up.
Again, please do not hesitate to reach out if you need anything.
I wish you good health,
2020 Census: Deadline Update
By Gracie Cohen
You may not see any enumerators out and about or going to door-to-door, but you can still fill out your Census form for this year’s count. And for those who wonder about deadlines in the time of COVID-19, you now have an extra three months to complete your forms.
Pre-pandemic, the planned schedule for the “Self-Response Phase” was March 12 – July 31. Now, the revised schedule has pushed back the deadline until Oct.31. Perhaps one silver lining of staying at home during the COVID-19 crisis is that our residents are still able to complete their forms online at 2020census.gov, on the phone by calling the U.S. Census Bureau at 844-330-2020, or by mailing in the forms.
Remember, the Census results are key to future decisions impacting your community! The number of residents in the count determines the following: the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives pluscongressional and state legislative districts. The results additionally inform funding for federal programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and much more.
Make sure you complete your forms by Oct. 31!
On the Hill
By Evan Carmen
B’nai B’rith and Section 202 Government Funding to Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic
We are pleased to report that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law, and happy to see Congress recognize the need to appropriate financial resources for senior housing in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Costs for these buildings will likely rise because of the pandemic, and the buildings will most likely require more funding over time.
Our office continues to call on Congress to increase funding for Section 202 affordable housing. The additional aid would potentially provide the following: monies to expand service coordination, WiFi access for all residents, funds earmarked for additional expenses associated with extra staffing, cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment and security personnel.
Additionally, we participated in a town hall discussion with Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania), where we advocated for additional funds for affordable housing for seniors in a potential fourth stimulus package.
Lastly, we appreciate the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) decision to provide direct stimulus payments to all Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, regardless of whether they filed a tax return. The updated IRS guidance will allow payments to move more quickly to the people who need the financial assistance the most during the crisis.
B’nai B’rith Continues Advocacy on the Hill
B’nai B’rith and the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) continues to advocate strongly to congressional offices regarding the FY 2021 budget. We met with staff members from the Senate offices of Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), Diane Feinstein (D-California), Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Chris Coons (D-Deleware), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Martha McSally (R-Arizona) and Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and the House offices of Sylvia Garcia (R-Texas), Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois), Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts), Matt Cartwright (D-Pennsylvania), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona) and Grace Meng (D-New York) and senior staff to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we are looking to find best practices following requested assistance from the network. We are able to connect with congressional offices and relay contact information back to the housing network. Additionally, we continue to reach out to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to obtain formal guidance on behalf of the housing network.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to B’nai B’rith if we can be helpful.
B'nai B'rith Stories of Hope: How We Inspire One Another
By Gracie Cohen
B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services is looking for your stories of hope and inspiration to share with others. In this time of uncertainty and very bleak news, and now adhering to physical distancing we want to know: What lifts you up when you are feeling lonely?
We hope these life stories will serve as a reminder for our residents that in times of struggle, the B’nai B’rith community encourages you to stay strong.
Tell us about a time when you learned resilience, found hope or learned a life lesson. You may also share what inspires you right now, or what is the best use of your time during this pandemic.
Submit your stories any way you’d like, including: a short-form essay, a poem, a drawing, a video, etc.
B’nai B’rith Stories of Hope is open to all residents, staff and board members. We will post your submission on the B’nai B’rith website and Facebook page following review.
Please send your stories of hope, or any questions to me at email@example.com.
B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Helps Seniors Throughout COVID-19 Pandemic
The roundtable was hosted by Senior Housing Co-Chair Dennis Rice and building administrator Jim Lynch. Following the meeting, B’nai B’rith leadership toured the building.
The B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund has opened a campaign to support communities in the United States and around the world as they deal with the impact of the coronavirus. This current situation – impacting us all – has also confirmed the important ways volunteers can assist those who are vulnerable, such as the senior population. We are fortunate to have an amazing network of senior housing buildings around the United States, and while these locations are focused on independent living, it is especially clear that the senior population has a harder time being independent when the need for social distancing must be preserved to safeguard the residents.
Many need help getting out to buy food or personal hygiene products. Many do not have protective clothing, such as masks and gloves.
The need for volunteers is also high since staff and local board leaders are also dealing with their own health and welfare at this time.
The first thing we want to do is find out what the buildings need from B’nai B’rith. We have been asked to assist with providing a connection for potential volunteers. Are there residents who have no family, who are in need of a friendly call? Maybe a volunteer can “adopt” a senior as a “phone-friend?” If you have activity books, notepads, pencils, pens or art supplies in need of a new home, we are able to make the connection with a building to provide these items residents who may need these materials.
If there are specific needs within the building, we are looking for proposals that can be shared with the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Committee for potential support for the residents.
One example of this is when the staff of B’nai B’rith of Queens expressed concern for residents not able to obtain groceries. The building staff had reached out to B’nai B’rith on April 20th. We were able to connect with the Metropolitan Council, who then donated an emergency food delivery of pantry staples and fresh fruit to B’nai B’rith of Queens on April 23rd. B’nai B’rith is grateful to the Metropolitan Council for this donation. The residents who received this donation of food are representative of those who need it the most.
Please contact Rhonda at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
*B'nai B'rith staff, members and supporters were saddened to learn of the passing of Hank Meyer in mid-April. He was a dedicated leader and he will be missed.
What Has Staff Been Up To?
By Gracie Cohen
B’nai B’rith CEO Dan Mariaschin interviewed CSS staff members Mark, Janel and Evan on how we are supporting our seniors and individual building staff and residents throughout our network during the coronavirus crisis. The interview, now live on our website, also dives into emergency preparedness and CSS’s continued advocacy for seniors on Capitol Hill. The interview additionally provides information on what’s going on in your properties.
Watch the interview here.
Janel was invited to join the International Council on Active Aging’s “COVID-19 Industry Task Force.” The purpose of the task force will be to develop, in conjunction with Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, recommendations and guidelines for safeguarding residents’ health and wellbeing, as communities start to plan reopening wellness, therapy and other onsite activities and services.
The CSS staff has been working remotely since March 16th to help #flattenthecurve. How? By e-mail, calls, or maybe even snail mail. Although we relocated, Mark, Janel, Evan and I continue to remain in constant communication with each other and our B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network.
Additionally, we cannot thank the B’nai B’rith Housing network enough for all of their hard work and dedication to their residents and staff. From us to you (coming from our new home offices):
How To Keep Residents Engaged in a Socially Distant Era
By Gracie Cohen
Through enforcing “social distancing,” we know those of you on the B’nai B’rith senior housing front lines have taken proper precautions to protect your residents from COVID-19. Whether you have canceled all in-house programs, limited the number of visitors per resident or temporarily locked communal rooms, you continue to engage residents in other ways. We would like to share a few ideas with the community, which are also now on the CSS webpage.
The use of technology has certainly come into play during these times. Be sure to download our WhatsApp and Zoom guides to help connect residents to each other, friends and loved ones. You may even use Zoom to facilitate Bingo or ESL classes. Need to keep residents physically engaged? Encourage one of your residents to lead a stretching class for the community through Zoom.
Include residents in the #FlattenTheCurve movement and raise awareness that they are protecting their neighbors! Have them take photos of staying inside and holding up a #FlattenTheCurve sign, or #Hometown Heroes to honor building staff (see “What Has Staff Been Up To?” for some examples).
Make sure your residents are getting some fresh air. Some buildings have started a walking club, where residents wear masks and walk outside, adhering to the “6-feet apart” policy. Others have allowed up to one resident at a time in their communal gardens.
Show Residents You Care For Them
Even though you are physically distant from residents, now is the time to show residents you care about them. Here is what staff at B’nai B’rith Golden Years Apartments in North Hollywood, California, have made:
Yvette Garwood, property manager of B’nai B’rith Chesilhurst House in Chesilhurst, New Jersey, came up with the following: “I’m going to the local Dollar Tree to get coloring books and colored pencils for residents. We’ll have a contest for the ‘nicest’ and ‘most colorful’ pictures. I will keep the photos they color, and my plan is to make a collage of their work to hang in the Community Room after this pandemic ends.”
Some staff have alternatively placed activities or kind reminders in residents’ door baskets. Here are a few highlights and examples you can use, too:
Make Sure Residents Have A Buddy to Check Up On Them
Many residents may have faced social isolation even before the pandemic started. Some residents may even be at a higher risk, depending on their medical history. Now is a crucial time to ensure residents are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends establishing a “buddy” system to make sure residents stay connected: “Residents can seek out a “buddy” who will regularly check on them (using preferably non-face- to-face communication) and help care for them if they get sick.* This person cannot be a person who is at higher risk of complications if they become ill with COVID-19.” The buddy system is a practical tool for you to use in your communities to not only potentially help identify cases of COVID-19, but to prevent any further outbreak to residents and staff.
If you would like to share any suggestions on helping residents stay connected, please send them to Janel at email@example.com.
*In this “Buddy System” detail, it should be noted the CDC refers to this guidance for healthcare providers and homecare caregivers.
Social Distancing: Why and How We Need to Combat Social Isolation
By Janel Doughten
I recently watched a webinar on social distancing vs. loneliness from the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA). We keep hearing that we need to practice social distancing, but what we really need to practice is physical distancingwhile increasing our social and emotional connections, particularly for our residents. Many of our residents were suffering a loss when they moved into the building: Maybe the loss of a job, a spouse, their health and/or home. Due to COVID-19, our residents are now suffering an additional loss: their independence.
The stay at home orders in most states – which are most stringent for many of our residents who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of age and health conditions – leave residents at a huge disadvantage. Some are not able to go grocery shopping, making them dependent on others to get them food and toiletries. There are no longer any social activities in the building, where many would use these programs to connect with other residents. They no longer have coffee get-togethers, group activities or even have the opportunity to just eat out together.
How can we keep residents socially connected, while trying to keep residents safe through physical isolation? We do not want to cause loneliness, which can cause even more distress in a very stressful time. Keeping active social connections is very important for seniors while physically distancing themselves. Facetime, WhatsApp, or webinar services such as Zoom, allow participants to actually see the other person or persons on a call. The CSS website has downloadable documents to help guide people through using these technologies.
For those who do not have access to technology, you may recall a few options which pre-date computers. One of the easiest ways to stay in touch is by daily phone calls, as well as sending cards and letters through the mail. Just talking and communicating with someone can ease feelings of loneliness, especially for those who are isolating alone in their apartment. In many of our buildings, staff and volunteers do phone checks. Additionally, many local governments are using volunteers to make telephone calls to seniors at home.
Building staff and board members have also created activities for the residents. Coloring books, crossword and word-find puzzles, newsletters, contests, anything that keep people mentally and socially connected with one another are being distributed. Residents let management know they want to participate, and items are left at the residents’ doors on a weekly or even daily basis.
Another important element to avoid loneliness? Give people a sense of purpose: Staying at home will help reduce the spread of the virus to protect ourselves, our loved ones, building staff and our neighbors in the building, as well as the greater community. Having a sense of purpose and a mission, that we are all in this together, can keep that sense of community alive in a building where we are telling everyone to stay away from one another. Many staff have left uplifting messages on their office doors, making sure that residents know that even though they are separated because of physical distancing, they still care about them. Residents are able to see these messages when they leave their apartments to check the mail, or leave the building to get some exercise.
Working together, though physically apart, we can combat the unintended consequences of loneliness while still being physically distant during the pandemic.
For the most up-to-date information, resources and tools from ICAA, click here.
A Special Thank You Note To B’nai B’rith Apartments of Deerfield Beach Staff
We would like to share a note of appreciation staff of B’nai B’rith Apartments of Deerfield Beach received from resident Hannah Rosner:
To the Attention of James Lynch Manager/Administrator
B’nai B’rith Apartments Deerfield Beach, FL
I would like to thank you and all of the staff at B’nai B’rith for all the hard work you have put into keeping the residents here as safe and healthy as possible. The effort you have put into cleaning and sanitizing the buildings, as well as the regulations you have implemented with the goal of keeping everyone in good health, are GREATLY appreciated.
You, along with all of the staff have been working so hard to do anything possible for our community. You have kept us informed, directed and managed the staff to insure the best outcome possible.
Thank you to Lisa, Tameka and Angie for their help and friendly words. Thank you to Janet and Lynn for calling every resident to check on them and help with whatever is needed, and to Mel, Ike and Bram for all their hard work along with Carlos for keeping up with the extra cleaning and sanitizing. And always, all of you with a smile.
I am very grateful to be living at B’nai B’rith under your leadership. Thank you for all that you do.
We know all staff in the B’nai B’rith network are working so hard to ensure residents’ safety and well-being. If you have notes of appreciation from residents you would like to share, please send them to Gracie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Role of Direct Service in B'nai B'rith International and Center for Senior Services
By: Janel Doughten
Ever since the founding of B’nai B’rith International in 1843, helping communities in crisis, or Tikun Olam, meaning to repair the world, has been one of the foundations of our overall mission. As the largest national Jewish sponsor of subsidized senior housing in the United States, the Center for Senior Services (CSS) has been able to expand beyond providing just housing, to serving communities that have experienced a disaster in the United States.
For those unaware of the B’nai B’rith International Disaster Relief Fund, this financial support provides disaster relief to communities that have experienced a natural or man-made disaster. Be it on an immediate, short-term or long-term relief basis, or even long after other first responders have left a disaster site, the relief fund has been able to continue its mission by supporting those communities in the U.S. and around the world that have been affected by a disaster in different ways. Residents of the B’nai B’rith senior housing network donate to the Disaster Relief Fund, either by providing items of need or through fundraising campaigns.
Over the years, CSS has brought the annual on-site staff training meetings, and/or the annual Conference on Senior Housing, to recovering communities. In this way, CSS has been able to help continue the long-term recovery of these locations beyond just assisting with disaster relief. These three-day meetings support the meeting and tourism industry, but even more importantly, we have provided training to staff of local housing programs that may not have received training otherwise. Additionally, our network of on-site staff can learn from their colleagues about how to prepare their residents and buildings for potential emergencies in their own communities.
In past years, the two annual CSS meetings have included service and learning components. In Houston, New York City, Chicago, and Hot Springs, Arkansas, participants stuffed and delivered emergency preparedness kits for senior housing buildings that were affected by disasters. In New Orleans, participants learned and saw first-hand the impact of B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief funds distributed to Christopher Homes, an affordable senior housing sponsor, to help rebuild destroyed homes. And most recently in Puerto Rico, participants learned from experts, served a community in need of labor, and saw where the disaster relief funds were distributed.
A new component, which kicked off at the 2019 Managers and Service Coordinators meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the incorporation of a “Day of Service” in the meeting. Participants met at 6:30 a.m. for the day of service in conjunction with some of the B’nai B’rith International Disaster Relief partners that are still active in Puerto Rico, including Chef José Andrés’s charity, World Central Kitchen. The group volunteered four and a half hours at a farm about a one and a half hour drive away from San Juan. Participants also learned from our affordable senior housing colleagues in Puerto Rico how to prepare for the possibility of large-scale disasters in their own communities. The preparedness training included presentations from the Red Cross and staff from the largest hospital system in Puerto Rico.
In this way, CSS and the B’nai B’rith International Disaster Relief Fund have partnered to continue the mission of B’nai B’rith International: to improve the quality of life for people around the globe. The mission that still drives our organization is to make the world a safer, more tolerant and better place.
Letter from the Chair
By Marvin Siflinger
I am happy to report that things continue to move forward at the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services! First, Congress recently appropriated money for the rest of the FY 2020 that will provide sufficient resources for the Section 202 program. In addition, we are pleased that a small amount of money has even been allocated to produce more senior housing units! Clearly, the trend is beginning to swing in the right direction.
In other news, as people may recall from the annual Housing Conference, B’nai B’rith stands at the ready to help you with your recapitalization and refinance needs. B’nai B’rith has experience working with developers and various financing tools to ensure that your building is able to meet the challenges for the next generation of residents. Furthermore, the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently finalized plans for the RAD for PRAC program. This program will allow PRAC Section 202 buildings to leverage outside money to make capital repairs. This is a great opportunity for our B’nai B’rith community to make sure we can provide affordable senior housing for years to come. CSS is more than happy to be helpful as you navigate the process.
Lastly, I am pleased to report that this year’s annual Managers/Services Coordinators Training will take place June 10-12, 2020, in New Orleans. This meeting is always well attended, and our management professionals walk away learning from top speakers in the field and from other staff of B’nai B’rith buildings. After last year’s successful meeting in Puerto Rico, we plan to continue to incorporate a service project to our agenda.
I hope everyone is looking forward to an exciting year! Between our annual meetings and opportunities for growth and preservation, 2020 is shaping up to be one of the best years yet.
Again, if B’nai B’rith can ever be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
A Note from the Co-Chair
By Abbie Stone
Hoping everyone had meaningful holidays within your communities and with your families. In September, many of us attended the Senior Housing Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas. We were warmly welcomed in the true spirit of Texas hospitality on Saturday evening at a reception, where we had the chance to meet B’nai B’rith President Chuck Kaufman and speak with him about the extraordinary affordable housing communities we serve.
The conference, which was noted as one of the best yet, included valuable information regarding HUD, tax credits for developing new communities, problem solving and the role of board members and more. We were honored to attend the local B’nai B’rith Isadore Garsek Lodge “Jewish Person of the Year” event, courtesy of Rich Hollander’s invitation. We visited the Mollie & Max Barnett/Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments, and were welcomed by residents and board members alike. The board generously hosted the group for a delicious dinner at the famous Joe T. Garcia’s restaurant in the historic Stockyards.
We really missed both Mike and Amy Merkin, who were not able to attend, yet sent their famous and delicious chocolate chip cookies! Many other invaluable ideas were shared, and we are so grateful to have these opportunities to gather and carry back new ideas to enhance the lives of individuals living in B’nai B’rith communities. On behalf of Dennis and myself, we thank the entire D.C. staff for the outstanding conference and their heartfelt and constant support.
Be sure to stay in touch via the scheduled conference calls! Each call is a great opportunity to stay in the loop with CSS updates and stay current with happenings in D.C. that impact the viability of affordable housing.
Keep an eye out for further details on the upcoming Managers and Service Coordinators Meeting set for June 10-12 in New Orleans. After last year’s “Day of Service” success in Puerto Rico, we’ll continue this tradition and serve the community of New Orleans.
See you in June!
Art, Wine and a Good Time!
By Evan Carmen
The D.C. leaders of our B’nai B’rith Connect group held an art and wine event on December 8th, 2019, for the residents of the Homecrest House senior housing building in Silver Spring, Maryland. Dee Sanae, then chair of B’nai B’rith Connect—D.C. (now co-chair), sought an opportunity for both a community and intergenerational experience: “It was a wonderful event of painting and great conversation. We wanted to bring young Jewish professionals and bridge them with one of B’nai B’rith’s senior housing centers, Homecrest House. We were also joined by B’nai B’rith lodge members and residents Yvette Teman and Marilyn Goldberg. We hope to support and incorporate more events with young leaders and seniors in the next decade,” she said. Trey Meehan, now chair of the B’nai B’rith Connect—D.C. chapter, commented, “We appreciated the opportunity to mingle with Homecrest residents who were eager to share their life stories with us.”
Homecrest House, sponsored by B’nai B’rith, has been providing affordable housing for low-income seniors for 40 years.
On the Hill
B’nai B’rith and Section 202 Government Funding 2020
B’nai B’rith is happy to report that Congress has passed a budget for the rest of the fiscal year (FY) 2020. This legislation fully funds Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 202 affordable housing program for low-income seniors. In addition, the budget provides some resources for additional Section 202 housing. We are excited that since FY 2017, Congress has appropriated $251 million for HUD senior housing. B’nai B’rith will be turning the page soon to FY 2021, as we prepare for meetings in the spring with congressional staff.
B’nai B’rith Advocates in Washington, D.C., for Section 202 Funding from Congress
Over the past few months, B’nai B’rith and the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) advocated strongly to many congressional offices regarding the FY 2020 budget. We met with staff members from the Senate offices of John Cornyn (R-Texas), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Reps. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Al Green (D-Texas) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). In all of our meetings, we talked about the importance of affordable housing for seniors, and how critical federal government funding is for the Section 202 program.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Assistant Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services.
Preserving Your B’nai B’rith Community for the Next Generation: RAD for PRAC and Conventional Preservation
By: Evan Carmen
As we talked about at our annual Housing Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, please reach out to B’nai B’rith International if you are interested in recapitalizing or refinancing your building. B’nai B’rith can help you analyze your capital needs to make sure you have the appropriate funds to ensure that your building is ready to provide affordable housing for years to come. In addition, refinancing or recapitalization can lead to additional resources for resident programing.
Recently, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has allowed Section 202 buildings to start participating in RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) for PRAC (Project Rental Assistance Contract). RAD for PRAC is a HUD program that allows Section 202/PRAC buildings to refinance or rehabilitate their property. This program will give Section 202/PRAC buildings the opportunity to obtain additional financial resources to modernize these buildings.
As Mark Olshan wrote in October, please don’t hesitate to reach out to B’nai B’rith if we can be of any assistance.
The National Senior Games
By: Evan Carmen
A Proactive Approach to Seniors, Guns and Dementia
By: Evan Carmen
Pizza and the Americans with Disabilities Act
By: Evan Carmen
Democratic Presidential Primary – Who’s Going to Win?
By: Evan Carmen
Why the 2020 Census Matters (From the United States Census Bureau)
The 2020 census marks the 24th time that the US has counted its population since 1790. Due April 1st, 2020, the count is conducted by the United States Census Bureau and includes the populations of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Why should we fill it out?
CSS will be sending out more information in the next few months on how to ensure that your community is adequately counted. Let’s get the word out on why everyone should fill out the 2020 Census!
Click here for the Census 2020 Fact Sheets in English and translated versions.
Resident Extraordinaire: Barbara Miller and Pat Durasavin, Homecrest House
By: Gracie Cohen
Every other year, two residents who display leadership qualities are selected from each building to attend our “Resident Leadership Retreat.” Our resident extraordinaires, Barbara and Pat, came together from Homecrest House in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Barbara, 74, has lived at Homecrest House since November 2015 and has helped make the building and its community the best it can be ever since. Whether she volunteers at the front desk, helps grocery shop for those who are not able to, or even turns cards on the weekends (this is a wellness-check feature, where a card on the resident’s door indicates if they are doing okay for the day,) Barbara continues to lend her support to the community. When she was asked to attend the retreat, Barbara was interested and curious to learn more.
The big takeaways? “Be kind to each other. Everyone has their own troubles and problems, and we don’t know what they’re dealing with. Maybe they’re grouchy on a certain day, you still have to be kind. Or maybe they’re from a different cultural or religious background that’s different than yours. It doesn’t matter. We have to treat everyone equally,” Barbara said.
Pat, 81, has lived at Homecrest House for two and a half years. As a very social resident who enjoys many of the movies, lectures, and other activities at Homecrest, she thought it would be valuable for her to connect with other leaders at the retreat. “I had a great time and met many people from all over the United States living in other B’nai B’rith buildings,” she said.
Post-retreat, both she and Pat came back to Homecrest with newfound knowledge. Neither had known the full extent of what B’nai B’rith International as a humanitarian non-profit. “I had no idea B’nai B’rith provides disaster relief and offers community support throughout the world,” Barbara said. “It was really powerful for me to learn about all the good this organization does.”
New Year, Fresh Discussions!
By: Gracie Cohen
If you’re looking to spark some dialogue and further engage your residents, I suggest sharing Francisco Cardosa Gomes De Matos’s poster poem below, “Crosscultural Dignity: Some Rhymed Reflections,” on a communal bulletin board or in the common areas. I know, poetry? Don’t panic! I think there is something for everyone to take away, no matter the line or question in the poem itself. Your residents (and staff) each have a piece of their lives and culture to share with one another. Personally, I love that the first two questions offer a chance for readers to reflect on their cross-cultural knowledge, and in turn, what they can offer to the community. As we discussed at the last two conferences, your residents are from all over the world and want to talk to each other. I hope this poem can bring even more of your residents together.
The Center for Intercultural Dialogue (CID) is a neat hub of online resources. Although geared towards scholars who are interested in intercultural dialogue, many of the resources (including case studies, blogs, podcasts, videos, and more) are useful for people from all walks of life, no matter their background. Let this be one of many tools to better connect your residents.
You can find the poem here. For another bulletin board idea, check out the CID’s posters, all of which may be downloaded, printed and shared for free, as is, as long as CID is acknowledged as the source.
What Has Staff Been Up To?
By: Gracie Cohen
On Jan. 25, Evan and Janel took part in a conference call with B’nai B’rith Connect leaders. B’nai B’rith Connect has events across the country for professionals aged 21 to 42 who meet to further B’nai B’rith’s mission of repairing communities.
There are many ways your building can partner together with B’nai B’rith Connect. If you are interested in having intergenerational activities, looking for volunteers to help staff an event or even working together on advocacy initiatives, please contact Janel Doughten at email@example.com for more information.
Important Upcoming CSS Events
JUNE 10-12, 2020
2020 Annual Managers/Service Coordinators Training
New Orleans, Louisiana
2020 Annual Conference on Senior Housing
Check back for details
Exciting Renovations and Rededication Ceremony at Adelstein Family-Project H.O.P.E. B'nai B'rith House
By Mark D. Olshan
On Aug. 22nd, the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services held a ribbon-cutting and rededication ceremony to unveil the renovations recently completed at the Adelstein Family Project H.O.P.E. B’nai B’rith House in the Bronx. Opened in 1992, the project was initially funded under the Section 202/Section 8 program and recently underwent a massive re-capitalization and rehabilitation funded through the sale of tax-exempt bonds issued by the New York State House Finance Agency under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.
Speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin stated, “In today’s economic climate, the ability to preserve and rehabilitate safe, supportive housing for low-income seniors is paramount in being able to provide for the next generation of income--qualified seniors. B’nai B’rith is pleased to have been involved in the complete update of this property.”
Residents are excited to be living in what are basically brand-new apartments. We’ve provided completely new bathrooms, with new toilets and tubs; new kitchen cabinets, counters and appliances; and all-new lighting and painting throughout. Additionally, all life and safety systems have been updated to state-of-the art systems, including security cameras throughout. Last, but certainly not least, was the installation of brand-new air conditioner units in the bedrooms and living rooms of each apartment in the property. Needless to say, residents are extremely happy with their brand-new facility!
Additionally, financial resources have been set aside to fund a host of specific supportive and social services not previously available through the streamlined budget. Through partnerships with local service provider organizations, for the first time, residents have access to referrals to community resources, supportive listening and casework services, as well as a host of new classes, workshops, events and activities!
Marty Adelstein delivered this statement on behalf of his siblings, Sherry and Alan Adelstein: “The Adelstein Family is honored and takes great pride in the redevelopment of this property. Over 40 years ago, our father, Bernie Adelstein, was the founder and pioneer of this wonderful example of perseverance through government bureaucracy to ultimately realize his commitment to establish affordable housing for senior citizens. On behalf of the Adelstein Family, we are grateful to our partners, B’nai B’rith and Connolly and Partners, LLC for their support and commitment to provide and improve quality affordable housing to the senior citizens who are living in the Bronx building.”
A Note from the Chair
By Marvin Siflinger
It’s an exciting time for the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services. Recently, on behalf of B’nai B’rith, myself, Dan Mariaschin and Mark Olshan attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at Adelstein Family-Project H.O.P.E. B’nai B’rith House. This ceremony highlighted a complete renovation of the building allowing the property to be maintained for the next generation. The redevelopment of Project H.O.P.E. is an excellent example of a true public/private/non-profit partnership all working together to enhance the quality of life of our cherished senior citizens.
In addition, we are proud to report that B’nai B’rith Housing of New England received a funding award from Governor Charlie Baker on behalf of the state of Massachusetts to build “The Senior Residences at the Machon” in Swampscott, which will feature 38 units. Like our other buildings, this property will have a wide variety of amenities including an on-site resident service coordinator, library and gym.
This property would not have been possible without the use of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). As you may have heard me mention before, the LIHTC is our most vital tool for building more affordable housing and modernizing our existing stock.
Our efforts don’t just stop in Massachusetts. We have been in contact with several B’nai B’rith communities around the country, including Atlanta, Seattle and Arizona, to build additional low-income housing or rehabilitate existing buildings. As always, I encourage everyone to evaluate their capital needs and determine if rehabilitation or re-financing is appropriate. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Mark and the rest of the CSS team in Washington D.C. to help with these efforts. They made an immeasurable difference for Project H.O.P.E. in the Bronx, and the ribbon cutting ceremony would not have been possible without their efforts. We hope other B’nai B’rith buildings will reach out to CSS to achieve similar results. With our partners, B’nai B’rith expects to continue to improve the lives of many more lower income seniors. Because as everyone is aware, there are significantly more people who qualify for affordable housing than there is supply.
B’nai B’rith housing isn’t just about construction. We had a very successful spring and summer regarding our programming. We held our B’nai B’rith Managers and Service Coordinator Training in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and our B’nai B’rith Resident Leadership Retreat at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp in Pennsylvania. To learn more about these programs, please feel free to read “B’nai B’rith Hosts Senior Housing Experts at Puerto Rico Training Session,” by Janel Doughten and “Resident Leadership Retreat: 2019 Recap,” by Gracie Cohen in this edition of the Seniority Report.
Obviously looking toward the future, we have our annual senior housing conference in Fort Worth, Texas, coming up in a few days. These conferences are a great opportunity for the B’nai B’rith housing community to come together, network with each other; and hear from experts in the field on how to make our individual buildings the best they can be for our residents.
As always, CSS is a resource for any issues with HUD and programming for your building’s staff.
Again, looking forward to seeing everyone soon.
A Note from the Co-Chair
By: Dennis Rice, co-chair, B’nai B’rith International Senior Housing
I would like to thank B’nai B’rith International for the opportunity to serve as co-chair of the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing committee, along with the dynamic Abbie Stone. I have been serving B’nai B’rith for the past 54 years in many capacities as president of 2 lodges and units, executive director of the Detroit and Michigan councils, the B’nai B’rith Young Leadership cabinet (now BBI Connect) and vice president of the B’nai B’rith Apartments of Deerfield Beach Florida.
Being involved with senior housing has been the most fulfilling aspect of my time at B’nai B’rith! Every time I visit the Deerfield Beach Apartments, I leave with a sense of accomplishment. Seeing these beautiful individuals living in such a wonderful atmosphere gives me such joy. I am aware that without the facilities we have in Deerfield Beach and around the country, many of these fine people would have a low quality of life. We provide these seniors with the dignity they deserve.
We could not continue to offer the wonderful programming without our great staff. Our service coordinators and property managers meet annually. This year’s meeting took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from May 14 to May16. B’nai B’rith worked with HUD to expand upon emergency preparedness training and include affordable senior housing providers from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Participants volunteered for a day of service at one of World Central Kitchen's partner farms, Siembra Tres Vidas, located in Aibonita, Puerto Rico. This day of service was coordinated through the B’nai B’rith International Disaster Relief Committee and Center for Senior Services. Be sure to listen to the podcast for a great recap!
Another wonderful program this summer was the B’nai B’rith Resident Retreat held at Camp Perlman from Aug. 7 to Aug.13. As you know, this event takes place every two years. Two residents from each of the B’nai B’rith Housing facilities are invited to attend the camp and participate in leadership development activities. Janel Doughten coordinates the program. We at Deerfield Beach look forward to hearing from our residents who attend. When the retreat is over, they report to the board about their experiences at the camp. This is always a highlight of our board meetings.
Every year, B’nai B’rith International holds the Conference on Senior Housing for board members and managers from the various senior housing facilities. They meet to discuss pertinent information in order to make their jobs easier. They also have the opportunity to network with other board members and staff who share similar concerns. This year, the conference is in Fort Worth, Texas, from Sept. 21 to Sept. 24 at the Fort Worth Hilton. Our hosts for this year are the Board of Directors and staff of the Mollie and Max Barnett Apartments/Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments in Fort Worth, Texas. Some of the subjects to be discussed are: “The Role of Board Members and the Role of Management,” “HUD and Congressional Update” and “Emergency Preparedness for our Buildings.”
So, if you haven’t already made your reservation, check out the website for more information:
I look forward to greeting you in Fort Worth!
Dennis Rice, Co-chair BBI Senior Housing Committee
Resident Leadership Retreat: 2019 Recap
By Gracie Cohen
On a Wednesday afternoon in Lake Como, Pennsylvania, 25 residents from B’nai B’rith housing properties met at Camp Perlman to commence their six-day retreat. The bi-annual Resident Leadership Retreat, now in its 19th year, not only connects fellow resident leaders throughout the B’nai B’rith housing network, but provides many tools to strengthen their communities back home. This year, the retreat took place from Aug. 7 to Aug.13.
Participants were immersed in intensive, day-long workshops. Sessions covered the whole gamut of challenges residents (and sometimes management) face. BBI staff members Janel Doughten, Evan Carmen, Gracie Cohen and our CSS co-chair, Abbie Stone, facilitated sessions, including how to: start a residents council and write substantial by-laws; address language and culture barriers; communicate with management; publish a newsletter and more. Resident leaders even had a set time in the program to bounce ideas off of each other, and problem-solve any issues they are encountering in their residents association or buildings in general.
Aside from workshops, resident leaders spent time with many of the campers who were already at Camp Perlman, folks born at least three generations after our residents! Young campers were able to get to know the residents in a song session and neat ice-breaker games.
One of the huge takeaways from the retreat, aside from residents connecting with each other, is that every program presented throughout the week can be replicated in each of their buildings. So, for those seeking fresh ideas who want to change things up in their building, we encourage you to attend the next retreat scheduled for summer 2021!
On the Hill
By Evan Carmen
B’nai B’rith and Section 202 Government Funding 2020
B’nai B’rith is pleased to report that the House of Representatives released their version of the FY2020 budget and the legislation looks promising for the HUD. Unfortunately, getting a fully funded appropriations bill signed by the president is not around the corner. The Senate is working on their budget and will conference with House on final legislation. So far, HUD is fully funded through Sept. 30th. Please stay tuned for further developments in the next seniority report.
B’nai B’rith Advocates in Washington, DC, for Section 202 Funding from Congress!
B’nai B’rith and the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) have continued to advocate to Congress on behalf of our Housing Network for the betterment of low-income seniors. Our energies have been focused on the FY2020 Budget to help ensure the government is funded on Oct. 1st and beyond. We met with staff members from the Senate offices of Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) offices, as well as from Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Penn.), Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.) and senior staff of the Senate Appropriations and the House Appropriations Committees.
Congressional Visits to B’nai B’rith Buildings!
Recently, a representative from Senator Diane Feinstein’s office visited B’nai B’rith Golden Years Senior Apartments in North Hollywood, California. The representative took a tour of the building and spoke with residents. After the event, Senator Feinstein sent a letter to the residents to express her support for HUD affordable senior housing. Check out the letter here.
In July, Ron Sparks from Senator Doug Jones’ office visited the Glen East Senior Housing Apartments in Dothan, AL. During the visit, Sparks spoke with residents about their experiences and the need for more affordable housing for seniors. We are pleased to say that the visit was reported by the Dothan Eagle.
In August, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Penn.) toured B’nai B’rith House in Reading, Pennsylvania. After taking a tour of the property, the congresswoman spoke to residents about how her office could address constituent services relating to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. In addition, she addressed policy updates relating to Social Security, Medicare and affordable housing. “Everyone should be able to live a life of dignity in our community,” said Houlahan. “I’m grateful for the work B’nai B’rith International is doing to provide senior citizens in Reading with affordable housing and their advocacy on issues concerning seniors and their families, diversity education, and helping communities in crisis.”
B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Now 2019 Rally
B’nai B’rith International co-hosted a rally on Capitol Hill to call attention to the need for more affordable senior housing. About 1,000 people attended the “Senior Housing NOW rally” which featured Virginia’s Sen. Tim Kaine; Missouri Rep. William Clay; California Rep. Katie Hill; and Florida Rep. Donna Shalala, along with a number of residents of affordable housing for low-income seniors.
Resident Extraordinaire: Diane Ealy, B’nai B’rith Covenant House
By: Gracie Cohen
Caryl Diane Ealy, who goes by Diane, was essentially the in-house comedienne of the 2019 Resident Leadership Retreat. Diane moved into Covenant House in Tucson, Arizona, in early January 2019. She became involved with the residents council there. Funnily enough, her mother had lived in the same building for about three years, from 2008 to 2011. “She loved to laugh and make other people laugh, something that apparently has a genetic component in our family,” Diane said. A family affair, indeed!
Other residents who attended previously told her it was a wonderful opportunity to connect to with many people. She was surprised to learn what other B’nai B’rith residences have, such as a store to support the residents council. As she explained, the concept of a store did not occur to her before the retreat. Of the many workshops during the week, one in particular stood out to her as a meaningful experience: in a small group, participants were tasked with hosting an event for the building. She enjoyed generating ideas with the group and brainstorming all types of solutions for a volunteer clean-up crew, including recruiting local firefighters. All laughs aside, Diane shared that at the end of the retreat, she left feeling charged to do something new back home, even setting the goal of facilitating one to two fundraisers per year on behalf of the residents council.
At the talent show, Diane had an opportunity to do something she’s wanted to do for a long time: perform stand-up. She put together a brand-new 10-minute routine geared to her audience and blew us away!
As you may have gathered, the retreat has something to offer for everyone who attends. For those who are unsure about attending, you may want to heed Diane’s advice: “It’s packed with good information about how to make your B’nai B’rith experience a whole lot better for you and for all the residents in your building.”
Caregivers – You Might be Surprised to Learn!
By Evan Carmen
Changes to the Federal Poverty Line – A Detrimental Impact on Seniors
By Evan Carmen
Seniors and Student Debt
By Evan Carmen
Evelyn Brazelton, the Face and Story Behind HUD Senior Housing
By Evan Carmen
B’nai B’rith Hosts Senior Housing Experts at Puerto Rico Training Session
By Janel Doughten
The B’nai B’rith Managers and Service Coordinators met May 14th-16th in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a year and a half after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. This annual training meeting is for the on-site building staff of B’nai B’rith-sponsored senior housing built under Section 202 of the 1959 Housing Act. The attendees focused on issues affecting day-to-day activities of staff and residents. Although B’nai B’rith does not sponsor Section 202 buildings in Puerto Rico, the meeting was open to staff from affordable senior housing providers in Puerto Rico.
The meeting began with 33 B’nai B’rith volunteers traveling an hour and a half outside San Juan to the mountain town of Aibonito to aid residents in conjunction with the World Central Kitchen, a charity established by Washington, D.C. chef José Andrés. Along the way, they saw lingering evidence of the hurricane’s destructive force, from downed trees to destroyed or partially destroyed homes. One of the farm workers noted that what our nearly three dozen volunteers did in the morning was the equivalent of a few days work for him. Because labor is expensive, the farms can only employ a few workers, so the farms depend on volunteers to help do a lot of the work.
Back in San Juan, four staff members from the Jacksonville office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which oversees the Section 202 properties in Puerto Rico, participated in panels and gave updates on HUD policies and procedures.
Participants heard from their affordable senior housing colleagues on how to prepare for a building-wide emergency and also learned what to do in case of a large-scale disaster in their communities. This portion featured a presentation from Janet Golrick, the National Disaster Coordinator from HUD; the Red Cross; and staff from Grupo HIMA • San Pablo, the largest hospital system in Puerto Rico.
The meeting also included a discussion with Jenefer Duane from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to raise awareness of scams aimed at seniors. Other speakers included Jasmine Borrego, president, TELACU Property Management, Inc., Los Angeles, California; Amanda Atkins, president, Atkins Consulting Professionals, Eugene, Oregon; and Colleen Bloom, CASP, director for housing operations, LeadingAge, Washington, D.C., as well as the Center for Senior Services staff.
Holding the meeting in Puerto Rico allowed B’nai B’rith International to aid in the island’s long-term recovery, beyond assisting with disaster relief. As a bonus, the meeting gave our own senior housing building staff an opportunity to see B’nai B’rith International as more than just a housing provider, but as an international Jewish community service organization.
The New Covenant Place in St. Louis
By Evan Carmen
Recently, Covenant Place in St. Louis, Missouri, opened the new Covenant Place II Cahn Family Building and Mirowitz Center. The Cahn Family Building has 102 one--bedroom apartments. Each receives federal rental assistance, making the units affordable for seniors. In addition, the Mirowitz Center will have restaurants (kosher and non-kosher), medical offices and community programing. These amenities will be available to the residents of the buildings as well as to the seniors in the neighborhood. The goal of this brand-new campus is to serve the older American population in the greater community.
In June 2016, Covenant Place I Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Building opened. The building consists of 101 apartments and has numerous amenities, including a library, community room and furnished lobby. In addition, Covenant Place has plans for a new Phase III.
Covenant Place originally opened in 1973. Additional buildings opened in 1977 and 1978. Harvey Gerstein was the first building board president and helped get the initial project funded. In addition, Mr. Gerstein took over as the president of the B’nai B’rith senior housing program after its founder, Abe Cramer, stepped down.
2019 Senior Housing Conference: Sneak Preview!
By: Janel Doughten
The B’nai B’rith International Conference on Senior Housing will take place Sept. 21-24 in Fort Worth, Texas. This conference brings together on-site building managers and staff, board presidents, members of boards of directors and management agents of the Center for Senior Services network of senior housing for four days of training. Sessions include a HUD update from Jessie Villarreal, branch chief, U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fort Worth Multifamily Asset Management Division; a presentation on HUD 101 for boards of directors by Nancy McIlhaney, director of compliance for Southwest Housing Compliance Corporation based in Austin, Texas; a session on how to support residents living with dementia presented by Jaime Cobb, vice president of dementia & caregiver education at the James L. West Center for Dementia Care in Fort Worth, Texas; as well as presentations from our own CSS experts in the field of aging.
Hosted by the board of directors and staff of the Mollie and Max Barnett Apartments/Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments in Fort Worth, Texas, the conference will include highlights like a visit to the B’nai B’rith residences, the Fort Worth Stockyards historic district, and a special invitation to attend the Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith 2019 Jewish Person of the Year Dinner with a keynote address from Charles O Kaufman, President of B’nai B’rith International.
A big thank you to the board and staff of the Mollie and Max Barnett Apartments/Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments for all their hard work helping to put together a fantastic meeting!
B’nai B’rith Apartments in Allentown Celebrates 40th Anniversary
By Evan Carmen
Recently, B’nai B’rith Apartments in Allentown celebrated its 40th anniversary. Originally opened in 1979, Phase I included 151 units, and Phase II (Allentown West, 1983) provided for 120 units. This facility is beautifully maintained, with numerous amenities including a computer room, party room, community room, gym and library.
The event featured music from two bands celebrating the 1950s, The Main Street Cruisers and The Hector Rosado Orchestra; a delicious BBQ and a number of fun prizes. Barbara Butz, president of the building’s board of directors, said, "Serving as president of the board here at B'nai B'rith Apartments in Allentown is an honor. This building has provided a wonderful service to the community the past forty years and I look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries for years to come."
Additionally in attendance from the community were Mayor of Allentown Ray O’Connell and representatives from Rep. Susan Wild’s (D-Pa.) office Elsie Laboy and Mariska Van Aalst. State Representative Michael Schlossberg and State Senator Patrick Browne’s Chief of Staff Ellen Kern both presented citations to B’nai B’rith Apartments from their respective legislative chambers.
Furthermore, Neil Forgosh and Bob Sipos were at the event. Forgosh was the building’s first board president and was instrumental in getting this property built. Sipos, the building’s first property manager and building administrator from the building’s opening until 2018, was in attendance. “It has been great being associated with B’nai B’rith Apartments in Allentown the past 40 years,” said Sipos, “We have had a wonderful board, great staff and fantastic tenants. This celebration was a great opportunity to remember the past and at the same time look forward to a bright future.”
Representing B’nai B’rith was Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president and director of the Center for Senior Services. Olshan said, “It’s great to see how the building has flourished over all these years and how the property serves the city of Allentown as we originally hoped it would.”
What Has Staff Been up to?
By: Janel Doughten
Janel Doughten, CSS associate director, was one of the presenters at the Robert Cottingham Property Management staff training held in Peoria, Illinois, this past August. Amanda Atkins, president of Atkins Consulting, co-presented with Janel on the following: Changes to HUD’s REAC Scoring Methods; Dealing with Difficult Residents; Assessing Your Cultural Competency as an Aging Service Provider; Fair Housing and Emergency; and Disaster Preparedness. The Robert Cottingham Property Management manages the Sam J. Stone B’nai B’rith Covenant Apartments, Phase I & II in Peoria, Illinois, as well as other Section 202 buildings throughout the Midwest. Approximately 75 staff members attended the two-day training.
We always appreciate the opportunity to participate in our management companies’ staff training.
2019 Managers and Service Coordinators Meeting
This year, the B’nai B’rith Managers and Service Coordinators Training meeting will take place from May 14-16 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This annual training meeting is for the on-site building staff, focusing on the issues that affect the day to day activities of staff and residents in our affordable housing buildings.
The meeting will kick off with a day of service in conjunction with some of the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief partners that are still active in Puerto Rico, including José Andrés’s charity, the World Central Kitchen. We will also be learning from our affordable senior housing colleagues in Puerto Rico how to prepare if a large-scale disaster were to happen in your community, including presentations from the Red Cross and staff from the largest hospital system in Puerto Rico.
Additionally, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is sending staff to participate in our panels. We will facilitate interactive discussions with professionals from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and experts in the affordable senior housing industry, as well.
Holding the meeting in Puerto Rico is a way for B’nai B’rith International to help continue the long-term recovery of the island, beyond assisting with disaster relief. As a bonus, the meeting gives us a chance to help our own senior housing building staffs develop their emergency preparedness if and when disaster strikes. Look for updates in the next Seniority Report!
A Note from the Chair
By Marvin Siflinger
The 30th annual edition of the “State of the Nation’s Housing” prepared by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University describes the grim econo mic outlook facing the nation’s low-income elderly population as follows: “More than 38 million U.S. households have housing cost burdens, leaving little income left to pay for food, healthcare and other basic necessities. As it is, federal housing assistance reaches only a fraction of the large and growing number of low-income households in need. Between the shortage of subsidized housing and the ongoing losses of low-cost rentals through market forces, low-income households have increasingly few housing options. At the same time, more than 65,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day.”
In addition to the strong current “educational” efforts being undertaken by B’nai B’rith and several other elderly advocacy organizations covering a wide range of federal programs, the lessons for the B’nai B’rith housing advocacy community are essentially twofold:
Recognizing the difficulties inherent with trying to expand our senior housing network, we would be remiss if we didn’t try as hard as we can to continue to move our program forward. The countless seniors who are in need of this housing deserve our continuing involvement.
Grandparents and the Fight Against Climate Change
A Note from the Co-Chair
By Abbie Stone
It was so wonderful to come together in October in North Hollywood. We are grateful for and appreciative of the board members, dedicated staff and gracious residents at B’nai B’rith Golden Years Apartments for hosting the 2018 Senior Housing Conference.
I want to take this time to thank the CSS D.C. staff on the amazing job they do in bringing us together and keeping us current on housing issues that impact our communities. You are much appreciated!
I also wish to congratulate Seth Riklin on his new appointment as chair of the Executive Board of Directors of B’nai B’rith International and welcome Dennis Rice, who will be serving with me as co-chair of the Senior Housing Committee. Dennis has been the vice president of the Board at Deerfield Beach Apartments for the past nine years and has a longstanding role with B’nai B’rith, going back to 1970. He is a dedicated community volunteer and has been connected to a program feeding the homeless for over twenty years. We look forward to the experience and commitment Dennis brings to strengthen and enhance our housing program. Together, Dennis and I will work closely with the amazing staff at CSS, making affordable safe housing available to those in need.
There is more to look forward to, as well. Now, this is something very dear to my heart: the 2019 B’nai B’rith Resident Leadership Retreat! This year’s retreat will be held Aug. 7-13, 2019 at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp in the Poconos. “Camp” is one of the most empowering experiences we offer to our residents. The setting is beautiful, and there are opportunities to interact with residents from our many communities throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as spend time with young campers from all over the world. If you have any questions about sending two residents from your community, please reach out to Janel, me or Gracie for more specific information.
2019 B'nai B'rith Connect Conference
By Scott Knapp, senior vice president and chair of B’nai B’rith’s Young Leadership Network
In early February, over 25 “next generation leaders” ages 20-40 from all across the country joined together in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to unite and build for the future of B’nai B’rith. In addition to holding a leadership retreat packed full of meetings and guest speakers, they celebrated Shabbat with a sommelier, held a beach brunch party and watched the Super Bowl from a rooftop. However, their weekend became even more fulfilling when the group of young professionals stopped to serve breakfast to seniors at B’nai B’rith’s Deerfield Beach affordable housing complex. This visit was the first time many of our next generation leaders had the opportunity to gain a concrete and hands-on appreciation for B’nai B’rith’s senior housing operations. That experience was indeed pivotal, as the Young Leadership Network’s board, immediately after leaving the facility, vowed to hold more events and mitzvah projects involving B’nai B’rith’s seniors in the future.
Our members and leaders understand that the meaning of l’dor v’dor should not be a one-way street. As a grandson of Holocaust survivors, I believe I owe a lot to the generation that persevered through global anti-Semitism and hatred. We must not only pass those lessons to our future generations, but also support our elders. Indeed, every time I meet with one of the tenants in a B’nai B’rith facility, I learn something new, and hear a great family story that should be celebrated and leave others inspired.
On the Hill
March was a busy month for the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network, with four members of Congress visiting our sponsored buildings. These visits demonstrated how important affordable housing is for seniors and the critical role federal programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid play in the lives of Older Americans. Check out photos on our website and Facebook to see some of these visits!
By Evan Carmen
B’nai B’rith Advocates for Section 202 Funding From Congress!
B’nai B’rith continues to work with the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) in advocating to Congress on behalf of low-income seniors. We have talked about the importance of affordable housing in relation to the fiscal year budgets, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and government shutdowns. We met with staff members from the offices of Senators Jon Kyle (R-Arizona), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Krysten Sinema (D-Arizona), Kamala Harris (D-California), Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California), as well as Representatives Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas), Eliot Engel (D-New York), Lloyd Smucker (R-Pennsylvania), Donald Norcross (D-New Jersey), Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania), Ayanna Pressley, (D-Massachusetts) and Susan Clark (D-Massachusetts). We also met with senior staff from the Senate Appropriations, Banking and Aging Committees and the House Appropriations and Financial Services Committees.
As the year continues, we look forward to scheduling more visits with congressional offices, especially incoming freshman. There is no time like the present to make new members of Congress aware of the B’nai B’rith housing community.
B’nai B’rith Meets with HUD Budget Director’s Office
B’nai B’rith is pleased to report that we met with the budget director at HUD. This meeting allowed us to explain the critical mission of the B’nai B’rith housing community. We championed additional funding for the Section 202 program and explained B’nai B’rith’s long history with the program. In addition, we would like to thank everyone who provided feedback regarding how HUD can make the Section 202 program more efficient. We compiled everyone’s feedback and provided the information to HUD. It’s always great when B’nai B’rith can be an active contributor to dialogue with those at HUD.
B’nai B’rith Participates in Housing Finance Roundtable
In February, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) asked B’nai B’rith to participate in an informal discussion with members of Congress regarding housing finance. Mark Olshan, B’nai B’rith’s associate executive vice president and director of the Center for Senior Services, spoke about our long history using the Section 202 program and how B’nai B’rith recently used the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program to recapitalize our sponsored building in the Bronx.
B’nai B’rith and Section 202 Government Funding
We are happy to report that Congress passed a full-year appropriations bill through Sept. 30th. We believe this legislation should fully fund Section 202 rental subsidies and service coordinators for the rest of the fiscal year.
However, getting a fully funded appropriations bill certainly did not come without pain! As everyone is aware, the federal government shut down for 34 days this winter, which caused funding uncertainty for the Section 202 program. As always, B’nai B’rith closely monitored the situation, collaborating with industry colleagues, communicating with senior officials at HUD and advocating for low-income seniors through the media. It was good to see our efforts picked up by NBC News in an article entitled ‘There’s no money’: Shutdown freezes HUD funds for low-income senior citizens.”
While we have turned the page on FY 2019, rest assured we are already ramping up for FY 2020. We continue to meet with congressional staff to emphasize the importance of the Section 202 program.
Resident Extraordinaire: Liam Flanagan, B'nai B'rith Covenant House
Liam Flanagan is far from a quiet, shy individual. A resident of B’nai B’rith Covenant House in Boston since October 2014, Liam has spearheaded several projects to empower residents and improve the community at large.
When asked how he initially came across B’nai B’rith Covenant House, Liam summed it up in one word: “serendipity.” Due to his loss of vision, Liam decided to leave Detroit and move back to Boston to be closer to his family. Once back in Boston, his first apartment was not too far from Covenant House, and he would pass by the building on his walk to Whole Foods. By sheer coincidence, he had begun talking to the building’s residents on his walks before he became aware of the appealing benefits Covenant House offers, including an on-site service coordinator, a fitness center and a community area on the first floor.
Not long after Liam moved into Covenant House, he noticed that there was no immediate crosswalk between the building and the plaza across the street. Residents would have to walk further down the road for a safe place to cross the street. With his vision loss came a heightened consciousness and sensitivity for disabilities or physical challenges others may face. Why should residents have to walk inconveniently out of their way when there could be a simple solution?
This resident extraordinaire took action and organized a petition for a crosswalk that was even translated into Chinese and Russian, to accommodate the varied languages spoken by residents in the building. It gained enough signatures for the city to approve the proposed crosswalk. In a matter of 3-4 months, Liam not only saw a need for change, but facilitated an effective solution that benefited the entire community at Covenant House.
Liam’s leadership style is to involve the residents as much as possible and maximize their input. But how does one go about this when fellow residents speak Mandarin, Cantonese and Russian as their first languages? Make sure the suggestion box is translated into their native languages, strategically place it in communal areas and use a fellow resident as an interpreter at several meetings, Liam explained.
Liam also felt a need to better communicate with Russian-speaking residents. He did not want language to act as a barrier to his interactions, so Liam started a “Russian as a Second Language” class. Liam’s intrinsic motivation to engage with residents certainly leads to many positive outcomes for the building’s community spirit.
But he now faces a new challenge: connecting Russian and Cantonese speakers. Liam would like to see a stronger bridge between these two groups to strengthen the community as a whole.
A snapshot of Liam’s other accomplishments includes increasing the number of recycling bins and improving accessibility to them in the mailroom, library and other areas of the building. Additionally, he worked to expand the communal space to include two community gardens. There, language isn’t a barrier amongst residents.
It is evident Liam brings a wealth of community organizing experience to B’nai B’rith Covenant House and is sure to continue helping to maintain a positive and inclusive environment for all the residents of the building.
2019 B'nai B'rith Resident Leadership Retreat
By Janel Doughten
This year’s B'nai B'rith Resident Leadership Retreat will take place from Aug. 7-13, 2019, at Perlman Camp in Pennsylvania. Held every other summer, the retreat brings together two resident leaders from each of the various resident councils/associations currently operating throughout the B’nai B’rith housing network.
In intensive, day-long workshops, residents learn from one another how to make their own councils more effective and successful or to begin the process of starting a council. Another benefit is the long-lasting connections that residents forge so that they can help one another with issues that may come up once they are back home.
Started in 1987, the retreat helps hone the leadership skills of participants. At the same time the retreat is going on, the regular Perlman sleep away camp is in session for children and teens, presenting myriad opportunities for intergenerational programming. Both seniors and young campers are able to glean valuable insight and knowledge from each other through singing, dancing and other immersive activities.
CSS staff Janel Doughten, Evan Carmen and Gracie Cohen and B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Committee Co-Chair Abbie Stone plan and facilitate all of the sessions. Whether participating in the trivia night competition or the last evening’s talent show, participants have fun while learning how to put on activities back home for the benefit of their buildings’ residents. Make sure your building is represented at the retreat in August!
What Has Staff Been Up To?
By Gracie Cohen
In February, Gracie Cohen started as the CSS program associate. She has always had a keen interest in working with adults and seniors. Prior to joining B’nai B’rith International, Gracie served in administrative roles in various nonprofits throughout the District of Columbia and Maryland. She previously taught English as a Second Language and citizenship classes to adults in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through AmeriCorps and researched adult language and cognition as a post-baccalaureate at Portland State University. Gracie is originally from Montgomery Village, Maryland, and is glad to return to the DC area after living in Seattle, Portland, Pittsburgh and, most recently, Kingston, Rhode Island. Outside of work, Gracie is an avid reader, movie-goer and occasional baker. She enjoys checking out the latest exhibits at the Hirschhorn and navigating DC’s coffee scene, and she is eager to contribute to the team and community at large to help facilitate success for all.
Please contact Gracie at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcome her to the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Community family.
What's Going On At B'nai B'rith?
May 14th - 16th
Preserving Senior Housing: B’nai Brith and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit
By Mark D. Olshan, B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President
B’nai B’rith has long recognized the need for safe, affordable housing for low-income seniors: a place where residents have their own apartments and live independently, while also sometimes sharing communal prepared meals in a group dining room.
Since 1971, B’nai B’rith has been a leader in this field. We have applied the knowledge we have gleaned from our senior housing efforts to the legislative arena, keeping regular oversight on legislation that may affect the elderly in the United States and around the world.
With 38 buildings in 28 communities, B’nai B’rith is the largest national Jewish sponsor of federally assisted senior housing in the United States. We also sponsor six buildings in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver; as well as “flatlets” in London and throughout the United Kingdom and Australia. B’nai B’rith’s first “parents” home opened in 1958 and is located in Haifa, Israel.
With seniors lucky enough to be housed in such apartments throughout the country, we find ourselves in the midst of an escalating affordable housing crisis. Millions of low-income persons are paying 70 percent or more of their incomes for shelter, while rents continue to rise and the construction of “affordable” rental apartments lags far behind the need. In 2011, B’nai B’rith opened the most recent of its senior housing properties funded through the federal Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, the last dedicated “seniors” program administered and overseen in Washington, D.C.
Today, the program most available to provide funding for new construction, and, even more importantly, for the renovation and preservation of older units is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Administered by the Internal Revenue Service, this program makes federal tax credits available to the private sector to encourage investments in affordable housing. Established in 1986, it has assisted in the creation and preservation of about 3 million apartments nationwide.
To date, the B’nai B’rith senior housing network has successfully benefited from the tax credit in St. Louis, for instance, where the Covenant Place apartment complex used the program to fund more than 35 percent of the total cost of renovating the property. The rest of the funds came from a major community capital campaign. The Coolidge at Sudbury apartments, in a Boston suburb, used tax credit financing as the major funding source for the new development.
Additionally, we are pleased to report that this past April, B’nai B’rith Senior Housing closed on a major refinancing proposal to renovate and modernize the Adelstein Family B’nai B’rith Project H.O.P.E. property in the Bronx, New York. The building was constructed in 1992 under the federal government’s Supportive Housing for the Elderly program. It consists of 100 residential apartments, 25 of them studios, and one unit for a live-in building superintendent. Rent for each residential unit is subsidized under the federal Section 8 Housing Assistance Contract program. New York State-issued bonds, coupled with the federal tax credits, raised the money to renovate the property.
The original Bronx project came about like many in the B’nai B’rith housing portfolio. It was 1979 when the vision of B’nai B’rith member Bernard Adelstein began to take shape. He foresaw a 100-unit development providing quality, safe and secure accommodations for seniors and disabled low-income citizens. But, it took 10 years for the vision to become a reality. Then, for 30 years, the property was a crown jewel of the community. But, as time went on, the building’s residents aged; some required more services to live independently, while others moved to more institutional settings — or died — and were replaced with new residents. Adelstein, who was most instrumental in initial building efforts, passed away in 2002, and many of the original board members retired from the property or passed on.
Adelstein’s sons Marty and Alan and daughter Sherry remained on the board. But improvements were needed, and financial resources were limited.
To best meet the continuing challenge of providing housing for low-income seniors, the Adelsteins met with officials of B’nai B’rith Senior Housing who introduced them to a developer familiar with the tax credit program. A new corporation, in which B’nai B’rith and the developer play leading roles, now oversees the project.
Not only does the new management intend to preserve the existing building for the next generation, it also plans to provide the financial resources for supportive and social services for the residents. Through partnerships with local organizations, for the first time, residents will have access to community resources, supportive listening and casework services and a host of new classes, workshops events and regular activities.
With construction well underway, residents expect to see a completely renovated building by the end of the calendar year. During the work, residents have temporarily moved into other units within the complex, so there has been no displacement.
Apartments will include new bathrooms with new toilets and bath tubs; new kitchen cabinets, counters and appliances; and all new lighting and painting throughout. Exterior and common area renovations will include new masonry, replacement of exterior doors, new elevators, safety windows, plumbing infrastructure, boilers and pumps. It will also see the addition of smoke detectors and sprinklers and electrical and security upgrades.
Overall, the developer intends to complete $8.7 million of building renovations, at approximately $87,000 per apartment, at no additional cost to tenants. Additionally, all residents will now be supplied with window air conditioners. Previously, they had to provide their own units.
According to Marty Adelstein, president of the project’s original development corporation, “Everything seems to be going quite smoothly. Residents are very excited to see the transformation of their homes taking place before their very eyes and are looking forward to be living in a virtually brand-new building. We are truly grateful for the support and partnership provided by B’nai B’rith in helping to make this transformation possible…”
Further, discussions are currently underway with the developer and the city about acquiring an abutting three-acre lot for 1,000 more units of senior and veteran housing.
This column originally appeared in the winter issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine at: https://www.bnaibrith.org/magazine-archives.html
As discussed at our recent meetings in California, we are looking to speak with any board members who would like to entertain the prospect of recapitalizing their properties. It’s a great way to make certain that not only will the building remain open and able to continue to serve its low-income population for another 40 years, but it will also remain in the B’nai B’rith family in perpetuity.
A Note from the Chair
By Seth Riklin
I am honored to have another chance to write you a note. I hope you all have had good health and have been enjoying your lives. Mine has been extremely busy. Let me tell you why…
For those of you who did not make it to beautiful Los Angeles for our senior housing conference, you missed one of our best conferences yet. Bruce Bleaman and his fellow board members at North Hollywood were terrific hosts. They and their staff maintain a senior property with up-to-date, comfortable, clean apartments, including some unique building amenities. Their cooperative flower, fruit and vegetable garden was spectacular to see. Once again, Mark Olshan, Janel Doughten, Evan Carmen and Breana Clark did us proud putting together a timely and important agenda. The comments I heard from the attendees made me feel that everyone was taking home a lot of valuable information to share with their buildings. Thanks to everyone for coming, and for those of you in the Northeast, I hope your transition from California sunshine to snow was not too abrupt.
For me, one of the most exciting days of the conference was our Senior Housing Committee meeting. There were so many ways that B’nai B’rith has been able to add value to our individual buildings. With the great momentum of our B’nai B’rith tax credit refinance program gaining steam, it was exciting to see the level of interest and enthusiasm from our buildings large and small. We hope to use our program to not only help all of our existing buildings, but to find opportunities to acquire existing senior housing to bring into the B’nai B’rith fold. We may be able to develop some new properties, too. Please reach out to Mark, Evan, Marvin Siflinger or me for more information.
When B’nai B’rith President Moishe Smith asked me to become a member of the B’nai B’rith International Executive Committee, now the Executive Board of Directors, most of the board did not really know what our senior housing experts did. With Marvin also joining the board of Directors, we began the task of educating its members about the value of our committee and buildings. A great deal of progress was made. I had the honor of serving two terms as treasurer of the international organization. Marvin just ended his term as senior vice president of B’nai B’rith International.
I am happy to share that my service with B’nai B’rith is not over. In my March note, I shared with you that I had made the decision to run for president of B’nai B’rith International. I did not receive the nomination from the nominating committee. However, Chuck Kaufman of Austin, Texas, who was elected president, asked me to become his chairman of the executive, and I was nominated for that office in October, before the housing conference. I am profoundly humbled to have the honor of serving in such a high office of the oldest Jewish philanthropic organization. We began the celebration of B’nai B’rith’s 175th birthday two days before our elections.
There are other great changes that I want to share with you. Marvin has returned to the chairmanship of the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services, which includes not only senior housing, but also senior advocacy and our new mental health component, which you will be hearing more about. The amazing Abbie Stone remains the co-chair of senior housing. I want to thank her for all the knowledge and passion for seniors that she brings to our committee. Her new co-chair is the wise gentleman from Florida, Dennis Rice. He brings his own high energy, and between Abbie and Dennis, we are all in for a great ride.
I will still be on the board of Goldberg B’nai B’rith Towers in Houston, and I look forward to talking with you on our quarterly calls and seeing you at next year’s Senior Housing Conference back in the great state of Texas. Fort Worth, I love you…and so will all the rest of you after you attend the conference there next fall.
We have proven that together, we can share ideas and best practices, provide support to the boards and management of all our buildings in the network and provide quality housing and services to low-income seniors across the United States.
Together we are stronger,
2018 B’nai B’rith Housing Congressional Visits
By Evan Carmen
Looking Toward the Mid-Terms
By Mark Olshan
Seniors Scams, A New Low
By Evan Carmen
Seniors and Voter Participation
By Evan Carmen
Task Force on the Impact of the Affordable Housing Crisis Act
By Evan Carmen
Eliminating Pre-existing Conditions Protections Will Have Disastrous Consequences for Older Americans
By Evan Carmen
What's Going on at B'nai B'rith?
May 13-17, 2019 (tentative)
Managers and Service Coordinators Meeting, San Juan, Puerto Rico
September 2019 (date TBD)
Annual Conference on Senior Housing
On the Hill
By Evan Carmen, Assistant Director for Aging Policy
It was fun catching up with everyone in our housing community at the Housing Conference in Los Angeles, California. As always, everyone walked away having learned a lot and enjoyed each other’s company.
B’nai B’rith Advocates for Section 202 Funding from Congress!
B’nai B’rith continues to work with the American Association of Service Coordinators in advocating to Congress on behalf of low-income seniors. We have talked about the importance of affordable housing in relation to the Fiscal Year 19 Budget, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, etc. We met with staff members from the offices of Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Richard Blumenthal, (D-Connecticut) Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Representatives Glenn Grothman (R-Wisconsin) and Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania).
In addition, we can report that Congress recently passed short-term appropriations legislation to fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development through Dec. 7. As always, B’nai B’rith will be monitoring Congress as developments emerge regarding legislation to fund HUD for the entire FY19.
Members of Congress Tour B’nai B’rith-Sponsored Section 202 Buildings
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida) toured B’nai B’rith Deerfield Beach Apartments in Deerfield Beach and met with residents to discuss the critical importance of housing for adults with limited means. Deutch’s tour of the building included the computer room, the arts and crafts room and the community room.
“With approximately 10,000 Americans reaching retirement age each day and increases in life expectancy, the population of older Americans will double between 2012 and 2050. Congress must continue strong support for programs like Section 202 to ensure that high housing costs do not jeopardize a safe and secure retirement for hundreds of thousands of seniors. It was a pleasure to meet with the residents, board members and staff of B’nai B’rith to see how federal investments in affordable housing help maintain quality of life and independence for South Florida seniors. Every American deserves to retire with dignity. Organizations like B’nai B’rith make that possible,” said Deutch.
The congressman held a Q&A session with 65 residents and answered questions regarding affordable housing, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“This is the best place to live — without this federal subsidized housing for seniors, I would not have this wonderful home in a clean and safe environment. It means the world to me to be able to live independently and feel proud of my home," said Carmen Rodriguez, a resident who lives in the complex.
Furthermore, we are pleased to announce Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-New Jersey) recently toured South Orange B’nai B’rith Federation House in South Orange, New Jersey.
“Around a third of America’s homeless population is over the age of 50. Organizations like B’nai B’rith International and the Jewish Community Housing Corporation of Metropolitan New Jersey provide a life-saving service by ensuring that senior citizens have safe, affordable housing. Since being in Congress, I have supported Section 202 housing and advocated for the needs of senior citizens. I’m happy to visit with the residents of South Orange B’nai B’rith Federation Housing to learn from their experiences and hear their concerns,” Payne said.
Payne’s tour of the building included two resident apartments, the library, the management office and the community room. The congressman held a Q&A session with residents and answered questions regarding changes to Medicare and possible rent increases to Section 202 housing. The congressman also spoke at length about taking the necessary action in Washington, D.C. to keep Social Security intact.
Senator Tammy Baldwin Staff Member Takes Tour of B’nai B’rith Covenant House
On Aug. 22, Jennifer Garner from the office of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) visited B’nai B’rith Covenant House in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. B’nai B’rith Covenant House is a Section 202 residential facility sponsored by B’nai B’rith in partnership with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Garner spoke with residents about prescription co-pays, potential rent increases and health care.
“B’nai B’rith Covenant House does such important work improving the quality of life for the Sheboygan residents you serve. I am proud to be your partner in the Senate advocating for affordable, quality housing and health care. Thank you for your commitment to serving Wisconsin seniors and families,” said Baldwin in a statement.
B’nai B’rith Day
We are delighted to report that on Aug. 28, we hosted B’nai B’rith Day at Homecrest House in Silver Spring, Maryland. Jarrett Moore, who works in constituent services for Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), and Patrick H. McCarthy,who is with the office of Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland),, listened as residents noted any increase in the amount they have to pay in rent would be “devastating.” During a panel discussion, residents wanted these Capitol Hill staffers to know how difficult it would be forthem if such supported housing were not available. Homecrest residents noted that the building is a “good compromise between independence and help.”
In addition, the elected officials were treated to a tour of the building where they viewed the salon, two apartment units, the convenience store, the computer room, the dining room and the community room. A resident services coordinator noted how she assists in coordinating such services as housekeeping, transportation and even fall prevention guidance for the building’s residents. Once again, thanks to everyone at Homecrest House who made this special day a success!
Election Day Results
As everyone is probably aware, we just held an election and saw changes in congressional representation. As most people are aware, Congress will be governed by both parties the next two years. The Center for Senior Services team is eager to visit with newly elected offices.
As the new Congress begins session, rest assured, we at CSS will be monitoring everything on Capitol Hill.
Resident Extraordinaire: Alice Fay Roberts Leslie, Mollie & Max Barnett and Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments, Fort Worth, Texas
By Breana Clark, Program Associate
A Mississippian by birth, Alice Fay Roberts Leslie moved to Fort Worth, Texas with her family in 1942. She was among the first cohort of residents living in Mollie & Max Barnett Apartments when it was first established in 1986. After moving away for a few years, Alice returned in 2014 to live at Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments.
Between her stints of being a resident, Alice missed some of her favorite parts about living in the building: planned activities and greeting friendly faces. It seems living there provided very few opportunities to be bored.
When asked about her mom, Alice’s daughter, Susan Wilson, said, “She’s sharp and in great health! It’s a comfort to her family to know she lives in a safe environment.”
As one of the oldest residents living in her building, the centenarian recently celebrated her 101st birthday. She is proud of her large family, which boasts four children, seven grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren! Her career included working for a hosiery mill, an insurance company and as the first female page for the Mississippi Senate. Throughout her life, she possessed a talent for cooking and baking. Her family has fond memories of her homemade yeast rolls and pie crusts. She has maintained that keen awareness for taste and is not afraid to share when a dish doesn’t quite meet the mark.
It appears that Alice may have identified the secret to living a long life—staying busy! That and, according to her daughter, treating everyone with respect. By staying active, she has maintained many friendships in the building. While her activities as a resident have taken a different shape over the years, she still enjoys playing bingo, reading and completing word search puzzles.
Building Highlight: Golden Years Apartments, North Hollywood, California
By Breana Clark, Program Associate
In the beautiful state of California, just beyond the famed Hollywood sign, sits a HUD Section 202 property called Golden Years Apartments. Established in December 1997 by members of the Tarzana B’nai B’rith lodge, the North Hollywood building is comprised of 90 apartments, home to more than 100 residents. Golden Years was built to serve, and still serves, a disproportionate need for affordable senior housing in the greater Los Angeles region.
Golden Years’ exceptionally dedicated staff and board of directors are devoted to the well-being of the building and they ensure that several programs are made available to residents. Especially popular are opportunities for field trips to museums or shows, numerous clubs and classes that meet regularly and seasonal parties.
Particularly noteworthy is the weekly English as a Second Language class, taught by a fellow resident. This has been an invaluable benefit to many residents looking to improve their English. Participants practice diligently and credit the class for their ability to demonstrate their knowledge through writings displayed in the community room.
The building’s beautiful covered back patio and a sidewalk lined with beds of plants and fruit trees provide a unique outdoor space that perhaps only California can pull off year-round. A small group of residents maintains the garden and takes great pride in providing a beautiful landscape for their fellow residents.
On top of the wonderful daily activities, every year building staff host a dinner that is complete with a red carpet. This event is put together with special importance placed on making every resident feel like a VIP and includes entertainment and photos taken by a professional photographer.
This year, the event coincided with the annual Thanksgiving party, making for an extra special occasion. “This is the season when we can be thankful and realize what we have,” said Marieta Seirnova, property manager of Golden Years Apartments.
By Evan Carmen, Assistant Director for Aging Policy
One of the hallmarks of B’nai B’rith’s advocacy efforts is inviting members of Congress and their staff to tour our sponsored senior housing buildings across the country. Always looking to build on our accomplishments, and because it was election season, we started inviting congressional candidates to tour B’nai B’rith facilities to highlight the importance of Section 202 housing. The Center for Senior Services team is proud to report that Republican candidate Marty Nothstein and Democratic candidate Congresswoman-elect Susan Wild, both running in Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district, toured B’nai B’rith Apartments in Allentown, Pennsylvania to meet with residents and discuss the critical importance of housing for adults with limited means. Nothstein visited the complex on Aug. 16 and Wild toured the building on Sept. 5.
Each tour included the party room, recreation room, computer room, library and a model apartment. They both met with about 20 residents and staff and discussed affordable housing, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Visits by congressional candidates Nothstein and Wild to B’nai B’rith Apartments in Allentown were a fantastic way to highlight the importance of affordable housing for seniors of limited means during campaign season. In addition, it demonstrated how intertwined healthcare, income security and nutrition programs are with affordable housing. At the time of the tours, we certainly hoped whichever candidate won the race would take back to Congress the conversations they had with residents about how critical federal programs are for seniors. We want to thank both candidates for visiting the building and expressing their views on how our country can best tackle seniors’ issues in the future.
“Living at B'nai B'rith Allentown is one of the best things that ever happened to me. It's a beautiful place, it's a friendly place. All staff and maintenance are helpful and wonderful. It's just the best there is,” said Bobbie Rudolph, a resident of B’nai B’rith Apartments.
We look forward to scheduling additional congressional candidate visits to B’nai B’rith-sponsored senior housing during future election cycles. The opportunity to be on the minds of newly elected members of Congress, like Congresswomen-elect Wild, is a unique way to expand CSS’s advocacy. We are hopeful that future visits to B’nai B’rith buildings from candidates on the campaign trail will ensure further awareness and support of the Section 202 program before elected members are even sworn into office.
2018 Center for Senior Services Staff and Volunteer Extraordinaire Recipients
By Breana Clark, Program Associate
For the first time in many years, the Center for Senior Services requested submissions from the B’nai B’rith network to recognize the wonderful staff and volunteers who work in and for B’nai B’rith buildings. The nominations for the two awards, Staff Extraordinaire and Volunteer Extraordinaire, were given special thought and attention by the CSS team. We were pleased to receive many submissions and were delighted that both recipients were present to receive this recognition at the recent Annual Housing Conference in North Hollywood, California.
We would like to extend a special thank you to all that nominated the wonderful staff and volunteers who work in and serve your buildings.
Eligible nominees for the awards were any compensated personnel of a B'nai B'rith senior housing building or affiliated management company, who has demonstrated his/her commitment to serve the needs of the building and its residents; or anyone who has volunteered his or her time, energy and effort to a B'nai B'rith building, and by initiative and drive has improved the lives of the residents.
Staff Extraordinaire: Marieta Seiranova, on-site Property Manager, Golden Years Apartments, North Hollywood, California
Marieta Seiranova began her professional career at Golden Years Apartments 13 years ago. First coming on board as a service coordinator, then transitioning to manager, her dedication to the residents and hard work has persisted over her tenure. The stunning property is home to just over 100 residents.
While touring Golden Years Apartments during the recent housing conference, attendees were treated to several un-prompted tributes from residents recognizing Marieta’s tireless efforts, positive outlook and unmatched energy. Residents cited the building’s numerous programs and opportunities that are a result of her efforts to create an environment where everyone can age with dignity.
On top of this, Marieta’s exceptional ability to coordinate, organize and be punctual make her truly invaluable to her management team.
Erika Cervantes, property supervisor for Levine Management Group, the management company for Golden Years, recognized Marieta in an emotional tribute. “Marieta is always thinking of ways to improve the building, even if it means dedicating some of her personal time. It is a great pleasure to work with Marieta and I look forward to many years of working together.”
Volunteer Extraordinaire: Marshall Herron, Board Member, B’nai B’rith Covenant House, Tucson, Arizona
For 26 years, Marshall Herron has served as secretary of the Board of Directors for B’nai B’rith Covenant House. The building, which is home to over 100 seniors, benefits from his years of outstanding service and generosity. Marshall’s dedication has proven itself in several ways. Because of his foresight, Marshall has been able to identify or write several funding proposals on behalf of the building, securing numerous large grants for Covenant House. In addition to this, he prepares holiday meals for residents throughout the year and is skilled at collaborating with management to resolve difficult issues.
It’s no secret that Marshall wears many hats in service to Covenant House, and his different roles far exceed sitting around a board room table for meetings. Whether he’s in the kitchen or stocking the on-site pantry, it’s apparent that whenever there’s an opportunity to do so, Marshall goes above and beyond to consider the residents first!
Abbie Stone, fellow board member of B’nai B’rith Covenant House, was present to honor Marshall with this award. She shared, “Marshall has a magical ability to make things happen. His knowledge of resources in the community is extensive. Without his vision the community would not be as viable as it is today.”
Recap of the 2018 Conference on Senior Housing
By Janel Doughten, Associate Director
The 2018 B’nai B’rith Conference on Senior Housing was held in North Hollywood, California from Oct. 26-30. This annual meeting brings together members of the boards of directors and management of the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network for training and is always held in a city with a B’nai B’rith building. The board and management of B’nai B’rith Golden Years Apartments served as local hosts of the conference. The conference kicked off Saturday evening, Oct. 26, with a welcome reception at the hotel, and the three days of meetings began Sunday, Oct. 27.
Sessions included: a presentation on elder fraud prevention from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Fire Safety for Seniors; Resident Empowerment; Program Models to Help Residents Access Nutritious Food; a HUD Update by Silvia Cuellar, Chief, Account Executive Branch from the San Francisco Housing and Urban Development office; Eliminating Barriers to Housing Access and Providing Support for Formerly Homeless Residents; a congressional and federal Programs Update; Fair Housing; and a discussion on building bylaws.
On Monday evening, participants toured B’nai B’rith Golden Years Apartments, where residents opened up their apartments for tours. Sponsored by the board of directors, the participants were treated to dinner and an entertaining one-woman show that included performances of a variety of Broadway show tunes. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Manager Extraordinaire Certificate to Marieta Seiranova, manager of B’nai B’rith Golden Years Apartments in North Hollywood, California, and the Volunteer Extraordinaire Certificate to Marshall Herron, board member of the B’nai B’rith Covenant House Apartments of Tucson, Arizona.
The Center for Senior Services thanks our local hosts for all of the hard work they did to ensure a great meeting and for the positive feedback we received from participant evaluations.
We look forward to seeing everyone in Fort Worth, Texas for the 2019 Conference on Senior Housing. Look for details soon!
Housing Conference Photos
What Has Staff Been up to?
By Center for Senior Services staff
In August, Janel Doughten, B’nai B’rith associate director for the Center for Senior Services, and Breana Clark, B’nai B’rith senior program associate, attended the 2018 National Service Coordinator Conference, hosted by the American Association of Service Coordinators in Austin, Texas.
In September, Janel presented at the SPM Property Management 2018 Managers Workshop in Sandestin, Florida. The presentation focused on how to de-escalate tense situations with a resident, how to recognize and deal with adult bullying in senior housing and how to become more empathetic towards residents.
The B’nai B’rith 2018 annual Leadership Forum took place in New York, Oct. 14-16. In addition to conference sessions, a special gala was held in celebration of B’nai B’rith International’s 175th anniversary. The whole CSS team was present to staff the meeting. The forum was markedly devoted to the outgoing and newly elected volunteer leaders who serve on the B’nai B’rith International Board of Directors.
As a part of the agenda, B’nai B’rith Assistant Director for Aging Policy Evan Carmen and Breana sat on a staff panel devoted to domestic policy issues. The two highlighted the HUD Section 202 program and other federal programs that seniors in the B’nai B’rith network rely on, such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Social Security.
On the last day of the Forum, Evan was recognized with the Sidney H. Closter Award for Outstanding Young Professional. The CSS team is especially appreciative of Evan for his hard work, advocacy for seniors, and dedication to B’nai B’rith!
Throughout this fall, since closing in April, CSS Director Mark Olshan, has been working with the developer and board members of the Adelstein Family Project H.O.P.E. B’nai B’rith House located in the Bronx, New York. They have been working hard to finish extensive renovations to the property after the recent recapitalization of the project. The property is about 97 percent complete, and the residents are extremely pleased with their new apartments, common areas and the overall look of their new home!
To learn more about recapitalization within the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network, read this issue’s cover story.
The 2018 B’nai B’rith Conference on Senior Housing was held in North Hollywood, California in late October. See the recap of the conference below.
Summer 2018 Seniority Report: Features
Don’t Miss the 2018 B’nai B’rith Housing Conference on Senior Housing!
The 2018 Senior Housing Conference will be in Los Angeles from Oct. 28-30. We have been busy planning for what we hope will be a special event. We will kick things off with a welcome reception on Saturday evening. This will be followed by conference sessions at The Garland Hotel, a recently renovated landmark that’s centrally located. Sessions will include traditional breakouts for board members and managers, as well as topics such as financial education, senior nutrition, fire safety, outreach and support of formerly homeless residents, as well as an update from a local HUD representative. We are especially looking forward to having all conference attendees to our building, Golden Years Senior Apartments, for a tour and entertaining program Monday evening.
For those of you who haven’t been to a B’nai B’rith Senior Housing conference in years, I assure you this is the year to attend. Make sure to take advantage of the conference hotel rate if you wish to stick around and enjoy all of that LA has to offer. If you need further convincing, we can (almost) guarantee perfect weather! If you have not already registered please visit this link.
A Note from the Vice Chair
I hope this finds everyone well and enjoying summer. I also hope you are planning to attend our much anticipated 2018 Conference on Senior Housing, hosted by the Board of Directors of B’nai B’rith Golden Years Apartments in North Hollywood, California. The conference begins the evening of Saturday, Oct. 27 with a welcome reception. This annual conference is a great opportunity to reconnect or become acquainted with those in the B’nai B’rith network. This year, we are excited to bring new and innovative topics to you Sunday through Tuesday, Oct. 28-30, through sessions such as: Partnering with Your Local Homeless Coalition to Support Residents, Do’s & Don’ts for Board members, Fair Housing Training for Boards, Residents and Staff, Fire Safety for Seniors, Fundraising Compliance & Risk Management and Elder Fraud Prevention. Additionally, there will be an update from HUD and a congressional update from the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services team.
Please make your plans and register early; this conference is not to be missed!
In the mean time, check out the recently created webinar by B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services staff. The webinar, titled “Senior Housing 202” comprehensively explores the history of HUD housing for seniors and the special relationship nonprofit sponsors, like B’nai B’rith, have with the Section 202 program. Please take a few minutes to view this informative piece by going to https://bit.ly/2K9WjCO. Thank you to Janel, Bre and Evan for providing this great tool for new, and even current, board members.
Looking forward to seeing you all in Hollywood!
Center for Senior Services Staff and Volunteer Extraordinaire
Do you have exceptional staff and volunteers working in and on behalf of your building? You can now nominate those individuals to be recognized for their hard work and dedication for the Center for Senior Services Annual Staff or Volunteer Extraordinaire.
The nominee for the Staff Extraordinaire may be any compensated personnel of a B'nai B'rith senior housing building or affiliated Management Company, who has demonstrated his or her commitment to serve the needs of the building and its residents.
The nominee for the Volunteer Extraordinaire may be anyone who has volunteered his or her time, energy and effort to a B'nai B'rith building and by initiative and drive has improved the lives of the residents. Potential nominees include, but are not limited to: a member of the Board of Directors, committee chairpersons and volunteers in the building.
Deadline for submissions is Oct. 1, 2018.
For further information and to submit a nomination, please visit this link on the B'nai B'rith website.
On the Hill
By Evan Carmen
It was great seeing everyone from the B’nai B’rith Housing community at the Managers and Service Coordinators meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Catching up with friends is always fun, especially hearing about all the great things going on in your buildings!
B’nai B’rith Advocates for Section 202 Funding from Congress
B’nai B’rith continues to work with the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) in advocating to Congress on behalf of low-income seniors. Over the last several months, we have talked about the importance of affordable housing in relation to the Fiscal Year 19 Budget, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
We met with staff members from the offices of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), as well as Reps. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Al Green (D-Texas), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Martha Roby (R-Ala.), Jamie Raskin (D–Md.), Al Green (D-Texas), and staff for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation Housing and Urban Development and the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
In addition, we are excited to report that we have met Tom Davis, director of the Office of Recapitalization at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regarding the money appropriated for the FY18 Section 202 Capital Advance account. The planning for how to allocate this money is still ongoing, and we hope to be able to report on it further later this year.
Lastly, the Senate and House have each released their legislation to fund the Section 202 program for FY19. Both chambers feel that they have allocated the appropriate resources to fund existing rental obligations and have appropriated around $50 million dollars for the Capital Advance program.
Congressional Staffers Take Tours of Section 202 Buildings
May was a busy month for our Center for Senior Services as we coordinated visits from several elected representatives to our B’nai B’rith housing. These visits are a critically important part of our work, helping seniors access affordable, high-quality housing. By providing tours to elected representatives and their staff members, we are able to show them why funding for affordable senior housing is so critical.
On May 4, staff members Rebecca Schatz and Artin Haghshenas from Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) office visited South Orange B’nai B’rith Federation House. Schatz and Haghshenas toured the community and spoke to residents about the importance of affordable housing in their lives.
“B’nai B’rith’s Federation House in South Orange is a shining example of affordable, supportive, and community living for New Jersey seniors,” said Menendez, the Ranking Member of the Housing Subcommittee, after his staff visited the building. “This property, and more importantly the residents who call it home, are an important reminder for why I will continue fighting to fund affordable homes for seniors.”
On May 8, Stephen Plyler of Cotton’s office visited Levi Towers in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Plyler’s visit included a tour of the building and a brief Q&A with residents in their newly refurbished community room. In addition, on the same day, as part of the Housing Week of Action, Nairoby Gabriel and Farrah Ridore from Warren’s office visited The Coolidge at Sudbury, Massachusetts. The tour included common areas and amenities. We were pleased to see the event get reported on by the Sudbury Patch at: https://bit.ly/2LFt2py.
On May 14, Kristin Vandergriff of Granger’s office visited Mollie & Max Barnett and Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments in Ft. Worth, Texas. Vandergriff lead a meet and greet with residents in the community room sharing Granger’s background and her particular legislative interests. Residents had one-on-one conversations with Vandergriff and many shared their concerns pertaining to housing, healthcare and other federal programs. Alyn Fernandez of Rubio’s office and Alina Garcia of the Florida Chief Financial Officer’s office visited B’nai B’rith Apartments of Deerfield Beach in Deerfield Beach, Florida on May 25. The guests received a tour of the building and spoke with about 50 residents.
Senate Special Committee on Aging
The Senate Special Committee on Aging recently requested information about guardianship and older Americans for a report to members of Congress. Because guardianship was a hot topic of conversation at the recent managers/service coordinators meeting, we asked the staff in the buildings to provide their thoughts on the topic. After hearing their feedback, we sent a letter to the Committee that outlined additional best practices for guardians, such as increasing scheduled visits, more quickly appointing new guardians when problems arise and instituting stricter conflict of interest barriers so guardians don’t personally benefit from their work with older adults.
Resident Extraordinaire: Jerry Fiman, Covenant Place, St. Louis, Missouri
A St. Louis native, Jerry Fiman has called Covenant Place home for nearly five years.
Before coming to live at Covenant Place, Fiman spent most of his career as a retail salesman, having his own store for nearly a decade. He went on to be a substitute teacher for nearly fifteen years, until 2014, predominately teaching middle school students at a local school district. He found teaching to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of his career.
Fiman is very involved in his building and doesn’t let the stereotypes about growing older stop him from being active. In addition to being the long time president of the Tenant Council, he is directly involved with many building activities such as editing the Covenant Place bi-monthly newsletter, Friday night Shabbat services, men’s poker club and Yiddish club — a language he is fluent in.
“I enjoy living here mostly because of the family atmosphere we are creating with the growth that is taking place,” said Fiman. The building is undergoing a major renovation, adding about 100 units to the campus and integrating an expansion of services and programs, which will be open to the general community.
“I have developed so many new friendships, and not at the expense of old ones.”
Center for Senior Services staff, volunteers and fellow B’nai B’rith residents had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Fiman in August 2017 at the biennial Resident Leadership Retreat at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp. It was evident then, as it is now, that his leadership and quick-witted humor have been invaluable throughout his tenancy to the 400 residents living in his building.
Upon learning he would be recognized as an extraordinary resident, Fiman said, “I accept it with grace and humility, and am honored to be so highlighted.”
Building Highlight: B’nai B’rith Apartments, Deerfield Beach, Florida
By Jessica Kreger, Chair, B'nai B'rith Young Leadership Network, South Florida
On June 3, the B'nai B'rith Young Leadership Network of South Florida joined the senior residents of the B'nai B'rith Apartments of Deerfield Beach, Florida for a Sunday afternoon Art and Wine Party.
“We had nine people from the young leadership group and nine residents. It was a really nice afternoon,” said James Lynch, the building’s administrator. “The young adults all really enjoyed themselves and mingled well with the residents.”
Led by art instructor and B’nai B’rith receptionist Angie Arroyo, attendees learned to hone their painting techniques while creating a tropical landscape, complete with ocean waves lapping an island, a wind-blown palm tree and a curving mountain.
Participants chatted over wine and cheese, and resident artwork was on display in the room. While the paintings dried, Lynch took the young adults on a tour of the facilities, which include three towers with a combined 271 units, a community garden, coffee shop, internet lounge, fitness room and libraries in each building.
The intergenerational event was not only a special opportunity to meet new friends, but also provided young adults the chance to see the senior advocacy and housing pillar of B’nai B’rith International in action. The young adults were pleased to learn that B’nai B’rith sponsored the cost of what may be a life-saving power generator, in one of the three towers, after the buildings lost power following Hurricane Wilma in 2006.
B’nai B’rith is the largest national Jewish sponsor of federally subsidized housing for the elderly in the United States, and works in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to run facilities such as the one in Deerfield. For more information about the B’nai B’rith Apartments Deerfield, visit bnaibrithaptsdeerfield.org. To learn more about the B'nai B'rith Young Leadership Network of South Florida, visit facebook.com/bbylnsouthflorida.
Recap of the 2018 Annual Managers and Service Coordinators Meeting
By Janel Doughten
The 2018 Annual Mangers and Service Coordinators training took place June 20-22 in San Antonio, Texas, with most of the properties in our B’nai B’rith senior housing network represented. The first day of the conference focused on residents: how to build and maintain relationships with your residents, how to deal with the challenges and find solutions in your building, creating a culture of mental well-being and even how to work with Adult Protective Services.
Sessions over the next two days included breakouts: Southwest Housing Compliance Corporation presented on Management Occupancy Reviews and other general U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) updates to managers in attendance, while the service coordinators were led in a group discussion, tackling many issues and sharing best practices, which included responding to grief experienced by residents and staff.
Christie M. Newhouse, the director of the HUD Fort Worth Multifamily Asset Management Division, briefed the participants on implementing the HUD Homeless Preference. Additional sessions included: Updating Harassment Policies, Implications of the Violence Against Women Act in Housing, a Congressional and Federal Programs Update and last but not least important, Self Care and How to Avoid Job Burnout.
Overall, this year’s meeting was a success! We especially appreciate all of the feedback from on-site staff, throughout the year, to make this meeting responsive to issues going on in your buildings. We look forward to having you at our meeting next year.
What Has Staff Been Up To?
By Breana Clark
In May, Breana Clark, B’nai B’rith senior program associate, paid visits to two buildings, Levi Towers in Hot Springs, Arkansas as well as Mollie & Max Barnett and Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments in Ft. Worth, Texas. The visits coincided with special guests Stephen Plyler of Sen. Tom Cotton’s office at Levi Towers and Kristin Vandergriff of Rep. Kay Granger’s office at the Ft. Worth buildings.
In late May, Janel Doughten, B’nai B’rith associate director for the Center for Senior Services, talked with B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, on the B’nai B’rith International podcast. They discussed the challenges and solutions for residents of B’nai B’rith’s affordable housing, particularly the issue of adult bullying. To listen to this episode on the B’nai B’rith International podcast visit: https://bit.ly/2JPQpuI.
Additionally, Janel and Evan Carmen, B’nai B’rith assistant director for aging policy, were hosted by the JCHC management company at the South Orange B'nai B'rith Federation House in South Orange, New Jersey. The two put on a Fair Housing training for residents as well as a session on “How to be your own best advocate.”
Later that month, the Center for Senior Services team recorded their first webinar titled, “Senior Housing 202.” The webinar details the history of B’nai B’rith’s role in senior housing and its special connection to the Section 202 program. The webinar can now be viewed by going to: https://bit.ly/2K9WjCO.
In June, Evan, joined the Board of Directors for St. Mary’s Court. Home to about 150 senior residents, the building is a part of the HUD Section 202 program located in Washington, D.C.
What's Going on at B'nai b'rith?
Oct. 14-16, 2018
B’nai B’rith International Annual Leadership Forum, New York City
Oct. 28-30, 2018
Annual Conference on Senior Housing, North Hollywood, California
Five Ways to Fight Elder Abuse, Neglect and Financial Exploitation
Seniors and the Opioid Crisis
By Evan Carmen
Grandmothers and the Fight Against Gun Violence
By Evan Carmen
Tearing Down the ADA
By Evan Carmen
New HUD Rental Reform Proposals Hit Low-Income Seniors Hard
By Evan Carmen
Webinar: Senior Housing 202
By Center for Senior Services staff
Podcast: Challenges and Solutions for Seniors in Affordable Housing
Featuring Janel Doughten
Spring 2018 Seniority Report
What's in Our Spring 2018 Issue:
Editor: Breana Clark
2018 Managers and Service Coordinators meeting in San Antonio
By Janel Doughten
The B’nai B’rith Managers and Service Coordinators training meeting will take place June 20 – 22, 2018, at the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas. We are working hard to provide sessions that address the issues and needs identified in your building. I want to especially thank those who have provided feedback in post-meeting evaluations and surveys by email.
Topics to be covered at this year’s meeting will include: Management and Occupancy Reports (MORs), a Congressional Update, Dealing with Difficult Residents and Residents’ Mental Health Issues, Working with Adult Protective Services (APS), Avoiding Staff Burnout, a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Update, Board Training Overview and Harassment Policies.
B’nai B’rith strongly encourages on-site building management, service coordinators and management agents to attend our annual training conference. We look forward to seeing the Center for Senior Services network of managers and service coordinators in June in San Antonio! Notice for the meeting and hotel has been sent via e-mail, for more information contact Janel Doughten at: email@example.com.
A Note From the Chair
By Seth Riklin
I want to thank our vice chair, Abbie, for writing our last column. I hope that her energy and passion for the senior housing work we do becomes infectious for all of us. I hope this edition finds you and your loved ones all healthy, happy and enjoying spring, Pesach, and the Easter season.
With the change of season, it is likely that all your buildings are busy cleaning up from the winter and perhaps refreshing your landscaping and physical plants. Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting one of our most unique buildings in our B’nai B’rith senior housing family. Pasadena Interfaith Manor is unique in that it was built and operates as a partnership between the local Presbyterian Church, The Knights of Columbus and B’nai B’rith. The three religious based groups have harmoniously operated this project for more than 30 years. With all the divisions in our society today, their team work gives me hope for our country’s future.
I was there representing all of you as Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) came to visit and held a town hall meeting with our residents. Green has long been a friend of the Section 202 program and supportive of Pasadena Interfaith Manor and B’nai B’rith. The Congressman toured the property and visited the apartment of one of our residents, who discussed her experience at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp with him. He diligently listened to our residents and offered his office’s help to many of the residents to help them resolve their issues with Medicare, Medicaid, immigration and other problems with the federal and state government. I want to thank B’nai B’rith Assistant Director for Aging Policy Evan Carmen for his efforts in arranging this important visit.
I want to share with you that I have been spending a lot of my time the past few weeks working on the recapitalization of our building in the Bronx, with B’nai B’rith Director of the Center for Senior Services Mark Olshan, Senior Vice President Marvin Siflinger, and President of the B’nai B’rith House Board of Directors Marty Adelstein. Thanks to their tireless work, we are close to finishing the financing and beginning the extensive renovations. Like many of our buildings, the property has aged in place like many of our residents. B’nai B’rith has been able to bring in a development partner to aid in the refinance and the management going forward. The Adelstein Family- Project H.O.P.E. B’nai B’rith House will soon be ready to provide brand new apartments to countless seniors for many years to come. If you think we may be able to help make your buildings’ future more secure, please fell free to reach out to me, Mark or Marvin.
Finally, I was honored to be asked by B’nai B’rith President Gary Saltzman to serve on a Blue Ribbon committee to address the future of the organization. We have made a lot of progress in discussing solutions and putting together a host of recommendations for the Executive Board to discuss at their meeting in April. With the adoption of many of the recommendations from the committee, the future of B’nai B’rith and our senior housing will continue to be bright well into the future.
Additionally my membership on this committee and my time as a member of the Senior Housing Committee has moved me to run for president of B’nai B’rith International. This is not a decision I made alone or in haste, as the job would have great demands on me and my family. We have always worked on the Senior Housing Committee to help all our buildings to continue to run efficiently as well-run businesses. I hope to improve the fundraising and operations of B’nai B’rith International to strengthen its financial condition and ensure a long, healthy life for the organization. Of course, I would appreciate all of your support in this new endeavor.
Together, I hope we can continue to share ideas and best practices, as we look for new ways to support the Boards and Management of all our buildings in the Network.
Are the Diverse Languages Spoken in your Building a Challenge or an Opportunity?
By Janel Doughten
A concern we hear most from board members, building staff and even residents themselves is, “how do we bring people together when they do not speak a common language —English?” It may seem impossible, but understanding some of the reasons why not all residents speak English can help overcome the challenge.
It’s important to understand that some residents may speak and/or understand some English, but are not comfortable speaking it to native English speakers. It can be embarrassing. English is a hard language to learn, and not everyone can pick up other languages so easily. Many Americans have the tendency to speak very fast and loudly, which can make it very difficult to understand one another, especially in a group setting. Additionally, when considering an aging population, a resident may have a hearing aid. This can already make it very hard to be part of group activities and especially if someone is not confident speaking English. Some residents have never had the opportunity to learn English, and may have not lived in the U.S. long enough to pick it up. While many buildings have staff interpreters for official management business and programming, for daily interactions with each other, residents are often on their own.
ESL (English as a Second Language) classes are helpful to those learning conversational English, but the key is to converse with native speakers. Residents that are native English speakers should be part of the ESL classes; there may even be residents that can run the class.
What I would encourage you to think about is bringing people together who speak different languages by holding conversational classes in other languages. Residents that are native speakers in another language — Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Navajo to name a few, can teach conversational classes in those languages for all residents. Start out with “Hello” and “My Name is…,” and advance to basic conversational sentences. This can help some residents realize that learning another language is not so easy, as well as instill some empathy for their fellow residents. Not to mention the value of continuing education and a friendly “hello” from your neighbor.
Another great way to bring people that speak different languages together is by learning about their culture. Whether someone speaks English, Spanish, Russian or many other languages, there are many countries and cultures that span those languages. Hold cultural pot-lucks and presentations about the different cultures. Even for those who are American born, realizing just how diverse English speakers are can make it easier to accept the diversity of non-English speakers.
Treating each other with respect and learning about each other in an approachable and accepting manner can help create a feeling of community in the buildings.
Building Highlight: Goldberg B’nai B’rith Towers, Houston, Texas
By Breana Clark
Recently, the staff of Goldberg B’nai B’rith Towers was awarded with the Excellence in the Workplace Award, an achievement granted by Leading Age. Phyllis Davis, Goldberg Tower’s management agent, nominated the deserving staff. The LeadingAge Annual Awards honor LeadingAge member organizations and individuals that embody excellence in nonprofit aging services. Leading Age states, “award recipients make outstanding contributions to our field and represent models of leadership, quality and innovation.”
When asked about Davis’ motivation to nominate her staff for the award, she shared her pride over the commitment of her team and their ability to endure tough times together: “Our Mission is to make sure we never lose sight that we do this work to maintain an excellent home environment for the residents and maintain this property to the highest standards. This staff came up with our motto while we were sitting at a lunch training one day: Doing the impossible is normal here. We take pride in that because we go above and beyond with the residents in mind.”
Amidst their hard work, and quarterly trainings provided by BHC Property Management, the staff at Goldberg Towers benefit from an annual creative training session. Accordingly, the team recently participated in a glass blowing class, “It was amazing to see the staff cheering for each other and complimenting each other on their craft. This [type of outing] has truly helped us create a team that works together,” Davis said.
Davis concluded, “I couldn’t be happier for them. I am so very proud of the team we have.”
In May, Angie Futch, on-site manager at Goldberg Towers, will be introduced by Davis at Leading Age’s conference and will formally receive the award on behalf of the Goldberg Towers team and alongside other accomplished recipients in the field. To view the acceptance video featuring Goldberg Towers staff, visit this link.
The Goldberg B’nai B’rith Towers team, recipients of the Leading Age Excellence in the Workplace Award. Back Row (L-R): Abel Rodriguez, Maintenance, Clotilde Cloter, Maintenance, Angie Futch, Manager, Marcy Sobolewski, Asset Manager and Onsite Project Monitor, and Jason Erickson, Maintenance. Front Row (L-R): Tulin Bennett, Administrative Assistant, Israel Escobar, Janitorial, Lulu Rodriguez, Janitorial, Michael Kahlenberg, Service Coordinator, Janet Pinner, Health Coordinator, Sherry Wright, Service Coordinator. Not Pictured: Andretta Foster, Onsite Project Monitor.
On the Hill
By Evan Carmen
First let me thank everyone for their advocacy efforts as we try to educate members of Congress on the importance of affordable housing for seniors. Whether it’s working with your residents to write their elected representatives or providing us with statistics about your buildings, all this work goes a long way to ensure that Congress understands the importance housing plays for low-income seniors.
As always, I look forward to seeing everyone during the Managers & Service Coordinators meeting in June. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions about policy or what’s going on in Washington, D.C., please feel free to reach out to any of us in the D.C. office.
B’nai B’rith Advocates for Section 202 Funding from Congress
B’nai B’rith continues to work with the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) in advocating to Congress on behalf of low-income seniors. We have talked about the importance of affordable housing in relation to the Fiscal Year 18 & 19 Budget, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income and so much more. We met with staff members from Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Wis.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) as well as Reps. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) and senior staff of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation Housing and Urban Development.
We are pleased that Congress recently passed legislation to sufficiently fund Section 202 buildings and service coordinators for the rest of the fiscal year. In addition, the legislation increases states’ allocation of funding for the Low Income Housing Credit (LIHTC) and provides additional funding for the Section 202 capital advance program.
While we are disappointed with the White House’s Fiscal Year 19 Budget, we are optimistic that Congress will fully fund Section 202 buildings for Fiscal Year 19. As always, B’nai B’rith will continue to advocate for low-income seniors and Section 202 housing.
Congressman Green visits Pasadena Interfaith Manor
B’nai B’rith was very excited to host Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) at Pasadena Interfaith Manor in March. Green’s tour of the building included a resident’s apartment, the library, resident computer room, community room, resident grocery store and the building’s grounds which include a dog park. As always, it’s great to be able to show members of Congress how wonderful our sponsored Section 202 buildings are for low-income seniors, and the critical role they play in the community.
After the tour, Green spoke with residents about a variety of senior issues such as affordable housing, Social Security, health care, nutrition and Supplemental Security Income. Residents were able to explain to their elected representative how important these federal programs are in their life.
Green said, “I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to visit a facility like the Pasadena Interfaith Manor that provides crucial services and a supply of affordable, comfortable housing to the 29th District. I commend B’nai B’rith’s diligent work in advancing Section 202 housing, a vital program for many low-income seniors in the 29th District of Texas, and I share their goal of doing all we can to protect federal funding for Section 202.”
Senate Staffers Take Tours of Section 202 Building
We are pleased to report that Marta Gabriel, regional manager of the Lehigh Valley area of Sen. Pat Toomey’s office, visited B’nai B’rith House in Reading, Pennsylvania. Gabriel toured the sunroom, common room, social hall, library and two model apartments. She also visited with about 20 residents during her tour. They discussed seniors’ issues such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and rental subsidies.
Gabriel commented, “On behalf of Senator Toomey, I enjoyed the opportunity to tour B’nai B’rith in Reading and to learn more about the services provided to seniors. I also talked with many of the residents who said they really enjoyed living there and appreciated the support provided by B’nai B’rith.”
Lastly, The Assistant to the Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ken Reichard, visited B’nai B’rith Homecrest House in Silver Spring, Maryland. Reichard spent time talking with residents of the building about how much they enjoy living at Homecrest House, the amenities that the building offers and how vital Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rental subsidies are to them. HUD rental subsidies allow residents to afford their apartments at Homecrest House. After speaking with residents, Reichard toured the property and saw a model apartment, the salon, gym, library, dining room and computer room.
Resident Extraordinaire: Donna Evans, B’nai B’rith House, Reading, Pennsylvania
By Evan Carmen and Janel Doughten
Donna Evans has called the B’nai B’rith House in Reading, Pennsylvania “home” for the past eight years. When she initially toured the building, she knew this was where she wanted to live.
A valuable member of the B’nai B’rith family, Donna volunteers in the building at every opportunity. One of her favorite programs is Family First, an organization which brings speakers to B’nai B’rith House to educate the residents on a myriad of issues, including health care and senior scam awareness. Since a hot meal is included for all participants, Donna is always there to help set up and make sure everyone is served. She is an integral part in building community by helping put on events like the carnival last fall, and is always a warm and friendly face for new residents. Donna recalled the welcoming residents she encountered upon moving into the building, and always wants to return the favor!
Donna has attended the B’nai B’rith Resident Leadership Retreat twice. Having learned a lot at both retreats, she says the workshops have helped her to become a leader in her building.
While life at B’nai B’rith House centers on activities like arts & crafts, exercise classes, board games and even Wii bowling, Donna also enjoys when staff from her elected representative’s offices visit B’nai B’rith House and listen to residents’ concerns and provide valuable updates on issues that impact seniors.
Reflecting on her residency at the building thus far, Donna shared, “It gives me more of a purpose in life, living in a building where there are a lot of people around. It gives me a sense of family being here. It’s different than living in a home, I just feel secure. I feel like I have extended family. You couldn’t ask for a better staff.”
Social Security Administration: Your Retirement Checklist
Repealing Net Neutrality Has Negative Effects on Older Americans
By Evan Carmen
The 2020 Census Will Affect Low-Income Seniors
By Evan Carmen
Save the Date
B’nai B’rith Conference on Senior Housing
Oct. 28 – 30, 2018
What Has Staff Been Up To?
In February, Evan Carmen, B’nai B’rith assistant director for aging policy, visited B’nai B’rith House in Reading, Pennsylvania. Evan and Christinae Haraschack, property manager of the building, welcomed Marta Gabriel, regional manager for Sen. Pat Toomey’s office, covering the Lehigh Valley, to the building. Evan and Christine gave Marta a tour of the property and arranged for her to speak with residents of the building.
Prior to the Omnibus spending bill being passed at the end of March, and in response to the administration’s budget proposal, the Center for Senior Services team spent a significant amount of time advocating on behalf of B’nai B’rith buildings on Capitol Hill. We were pleased to see that Congress passed, and the president signed, a bill that sufficiently funds Section 202 rental subsidies, as well as other Federal programs that seniors rely on. We are confident that grassroots advocacy and constituent feedback were behind this major win.
In late April, the Center for Senior Services team held a meeting with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to discuss the 2018 Omnibus bill and its implications for senior housing. The spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018 included $105 million for the Section 202 Capital Advance program.
What’s Going on At B’nai B’rith?
June 20-22, 2018
Managers & Service Coordinators Meeting, San Antonio, TX.
Oct 28-30, 2018
Annual Conference on Senior Housing, North Hollywood, Calif.
Center For Senior Services Newsletter
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