Sixty-one year old Robert Woods continues to wait for adequate and affordable senior housing in the city.
By CSULB Senior Seminar Reporter Karina Cortez
When Long Beach senior Robert Woods, 61, thinks of his current housing situation at the Bay Hotel in Long Beach, he says, “I can’t wait to get out.”
In his single room at the hotel, he often has to wait to use the bathroom or the shower, and because he doesn’t have his own cooking place, he must also wait in line to fix something to eat.
Woods, like many seniors in Long Beach, is biding his time in a substandard living option as he waits for a permanent housing situation that he can afford. Some wait up to five years for a decent home.
“Somebody has to die or go to an assisted living [center] and that doesn’t happen that often,” said Lourine Hodge, LB Senior Center housing volunteer.
Senior housing at Covenant Manor or Lutheran Towers has a waitlist of about two to three years, while American Gold Star Manor’s wait is about four to five years, according to Hodge.
Up until a few weeks ago, David Tracy, 64, was just like Woods, waiting to get into decent, affordable housing.
“[I was living] in Sara’s Apartments. The rent was supposed to be low income housing but it was $700 when I first moved in and now it’s $752,” said Tracy. Tracy now lives in Providence, which is only $483 a month.
The low monthly payments combined with complimentary appliances at Providence are what truly appeals to seniors like Tracy and Woods, and also why they endure what is necessary until a room is available.
But even once a senior finds adequate housing, it can be costly for them to make ends meet, especially for the many that rely on just the income they receive from social security each month.
According to the Social Security Administration website, for seniors age 65 and older the average monthly SSI payment is $429. For seniors 64 and younger the average payment is $552.
Many seniors in Long Beach use their entire social security checks to pay the monthly rent.
For places like the temporary housing Woods stays in, that check is just enough.
“[The] Bay Hotel downtown, you can rent a room there for $525 a month plus a $625 security deposit but the only thing in your room is a bed, sink, and a refrigerator. You have to use the same toilet everybody on the floor uses,” Hodge said.
Overcrowding in shared living spaces, where seniors are given just a bed with four or five people sharing the room, can be so difficult, that some end up spending most of their time on the streets.
“You can imagine – [if] you can only sleep there, what do you do with your things? Those are the people you see [walking around] with a basket pulling all of their stuff,” Hodge said.
Hodge continues, “[Seniors] deal with that type of atmosphere because that’s better than sleeping down at the public library.”
For seniors who don’t receive supplemental security income, the options for housing aren’t easy to come by. Not all seniors at the age 65 are getting SSI and some receive only general relief aid, which comes to about $200 a month.
“The agency can then send them to homeless shelters,” Hodge said. “That is a place where a lot of people end up.”
Seeking affordable housing is a central issue for seniors of all shades and backgrounds.
“It definitely affects the Latino community,” said Maria Becerra, senior organizer at Centro CHA, a local non-profit committed to serving underserved Hispanic neighborhoods in Long Beach. “More seniors are calling in, because they need to speak with someone who is bilingual,” Becerra said.
Becerra notes that the organization does all they can to empower seniors so they can better navigate through life and the hurdles that come along with it.
Affordable housing clearly is not easy to come by for seniors. Fortunately, people like Hodge, do what they can to help.
“We are in the hub of the senior community, so we really are viable for the [seniors] in this area,” explains Hodge. “A lot of times seniors are overlooked. We can’t give everything to youth.”