Wednesday, November 01, 2000

Public Housing Assisted-Living Facility Provides Elderly With Care, Homes

Public Housing Assisted-Living Facility Provides Elderly With Care, Homes
Housing the Elderly Report
Community Development News
By Pamela Appea

The Miami-Dade Housing Agency says it has saved money and helped meet a community need with the nation’s first assisted-living facility in public housing.

The Helen Sawyer Plaza opened its doors in August and has won two national awards. The 104-unit facility runs with state-sponsored Medicaid waivers to provide a continuum of care for facility residents.

Public-housing groups are eligible for rent subsidies to defray the cost of providing high-quality facilities to low-income frail seniors, MDHA says.

Agency director Rene Rodriguez says the Miami-Dade community has a tremendous need to meet the “deteriorating” mental and physical condition of seniors who live in public housing.

That need is rapidly growing, particularly in urban areas across the United States. A 1995 HUD report found 1 million very low-income elderly renters lived in either substandard housing or paid more than half their income in rent. Florida has 13% of seniors who live below the poverty line and more than half of elderly renters pay 30% of their income for housing.

Miami-Dade has the nation’s sixth-largest public-housing authority, with more than 5,000 seniors. Providing assisted living is cost-effective, since federal and state governments spend four times as much to care for an elderly nursing-home resident than for an assisted-living facility resident, Rodriguez says.

To qualify, residents need to be Medicaid-eligible and have access to case management. They should also require minimum assistance to live independently.

Formerly known as Highland Park, the Helen Sawyer Plaza was built originally to house frail elderly and the handicapped in the mid-’70s. The Miami-Dade Housing Agency started conversion of the Helen Sawyer Plaza in 1997 as a joint project with HUD and the state of Florida.

HUD programs currently do not cater to the elderly, the Miami-Date Housing Agency report says, leaving low-income seniors with few options to live independently.

Info: Miami-Dade Housing Agency, 1401 NW 7th Street, Miami, FL 33125.

Originally published November 2000