The Importance of Social Service Coordinators in Affordable Housing
Author: Diana Pro, Director of Social Service Coordination
I have been with RHF for 15 years, originally working as an onsite Social Service Coordinator; I transferred to RHF’s National Office in 2016 to support and eventually manage all of RHF’ Social Service Coordinators.
A Social Service Coordinator (SSC) is an integral member of staff in an affordable housing community, yet they are sometimes undervalued by those who aren’t fully aware of all that SSCs can do for their residents. An SSC is especially important when that community serves some of the most vulnerable populations, such as older adults.
SSCs arrange health and wellness programs, onsite clinics, preventive services, and education on topics like medication management, fall prevention, nutrition, exercise, emergency preparedness, and transitional care after hospitalization. These programs are critical to improving the quality of life for older adults and help them to age in place for as long as possible.
SSCs work to prevent food insecurity by helping residents apply for SNAP benefits, coordinating free onsite food bank delivery services, and linking residents to services that provide daily or weekly meals.
Through frequent interaction, relationship building, and monitoring of behavioral changes, SSCs gain an understanding of residents’ routines and what changes may signal that an intervention is necessary. The SSC can then analyze the resident’s situation, make referrals, and put resources in place, thereby avoiding hospitalization or premature placement in a higher level of care.
SSCs prevent social isolation with every program they create and every resident they visit. SSCs foster relationships with and among residents and the larger community. This is especially important in senior living, where individuals frequently live alone. RHF SSCs also assist in the organization of programs such as Project H.A.N.D.S.® (Helping Angels National Donated Support) within their communities. Project H.A.N.D.S. (Helping Angels National Donated Support) is a program in which RHF residents and staff collaborate with local organizations to give back and help those in need, providing another outlet for socialization and bonding. Learn more here: https://rhf.org/project-h-a-n-d-s/.
A recent case study from The American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) spelled out some incredibly compelling facts and statistics about the effectiveness and importance of onsite SSCs in affordable housing:
- Nursing home placement for low-income older adults costs taxpayers an average of 66% more than federally subsidized housing and service coordination.
- 93% of individuals living in affordable housing with a service coordinator in 2020 continued living independently in their communities instead of moving to higher levels of care.
- Between 2018 and 2020, SSCs helped approximately 40,000 individuals get home healthcare services.
The SSC program and its availability in affordable housing communities are currently threatened by a number of issues including lack of funding, low wages, reduced hours, and burnout. We encourage you to visit AASC’s website to learn more and to find out how you can help advocate: https://www.servicecoordinator.org/page/publicpolicy
RHF’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan
RHF’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan
Author: Stephanie Titus, Chief Strategy Officer & Vice President of Philanthropy
In early 2021, I was asked to lead the process of creating RHF’s new Strategic Plan which would determine the direction of the organization for the next three years. The Alford Group was selected to partner with executive staff and national board members to conduct a comprehensive strategic planning process that assessed the organization’s successes and challenges and developed a roadmap to outline a plan for RHF’s future. This process included ongoing meetings with various board members and staff and was performed with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) considerations at the forefront. After a strategy design workshop in August 2021 to articulate the overarching vision, multiple workgroups developed detailed goals and tactics.
Focus groups were held, virtually, with regional staff and a cross-section of managers, and an online survey was sent to staff as well as RHF’s national board. External interviews with vendors, donors, industry peers, and business partners were also conducted. Results from these comprehensive efforts were compiled and final recommendations were presented in early November.
RHF’s National Board of Directors adopted the 2022 – 2025 Strategic Plan on November 10, 2021. RHF’s executive staff and Board will evaluate progress in summer 2023 to refine the plan as needed for 2024 and beyond.
The framework is made up of four pillars:
Download a pdf of RHF’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan
As next steps to implementing its new strategic plan, RHF launched its DE&I initiative in February 2022 with a focus on 5 initial areas:
- Understanding our why and taking stock of RHF’s progress to date
- Creating a space for dialogue, learning, and forward movement
- Identifying a common language and understanding around DE&I
- Framing the work ahead
- Identifying opportunities and measurements of success
Additionally, a cross-section of RHF team members across the organization and representing a variety of job functions, geographies, and backgrounds were asked to serve as a DE&I Core Group to help shape and lead the development of the framework of RHF’s DE&I plan.
Last year, staff were invited to participate in two surveys to help provide baseline data around perceptions, needs, experiences, barriers, and opportunities. Recognizing that our collective work to adopt and maintain a culture of DE&I is a journey, one assessment illuminated RHF’s current state (current Culture of Equity – COE) related to those efforts and identified best practices. The other provided a benchmark for RHF in the rental housing industry through our participation in the National Apartment Association’s DE&I survey.
Four key pillars were outlined for RHF’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion work in the years ahead:
Across our organization, we have also rolled out DE&I training focused on the “Importance of Belonging” and launched an Employee Feedback initiative in partnership with an independent survey company specializing in employee engagement. They will assist us with conducting confidential surveys, gathering feedback, and helping RHF’s leadership analyze where we might improve employee engagement throughout the organization. RHF’s National Board of Directors adopted the DE&I plan in February 2023.
In June of 2022, I accepted a new position as RHF’s Chief Strategy Officer; in this role, I am responsible for quarterly analysis and reporting on our collective efforts of accomplishing the goals identified in the Strategic Plan and DE&I initiative, as well as continuing my oversight of fund development as the Vice President of Philanthropy.
We look forward to sharing updates to our work and practices in the months ahead as our DE&I plan rolls out across the organization.
A matter of perspective
A Matter of Perspective
~ Author: Dr. Laverne Joseph, Former President, and CEO of Retirement Housing Foundation
The HUD 202 program, which provides affordable housing for older adults, has been around for more than 50 years. Many of RHF’s communities have been built under that program.
The program provides funds for construction. Persons who are at 50% of the area median income and 62 years or older pay 30% of their income as their share of the rent, and the balance to keep the building operational is paid by a subsidy from HUD.
In the late 70s and early 80s, Congress was providing funding for about 20,000 new apartments annually. In spite of the demographics showing that the number of individuals over the age of 65 will double in the next 30 years in our nation, the number of new units has diminished over the years to about 4,000 in a combined 2010-2011 allocation.
And for 2012 Congress funded no new units and they have not reinstated it in any budget since. For years there have been proposals to defund the program – but elected representatives, from both sides of the aisle, have ALWAYS considered it a vital program worthy of federal funding.
Once when I was in DC to testify on the housing program in the afternoon, that morning I attended a press conference in which former Missouri Senator Kit Bond talked about how the Senate had reinstated the program on a vote of 96 to 0. He said, ”When you get that kind of vote you know it’s not a matter of politics; it’s a matter of morals.”
It is a matter of morals but it is also a matter of perspective.
Another time when I testified before the House Banking Committee on the need for the program, during the question and answer time one member said to me, “It’s a great program, but tell us where do we get the money.” I responded,” First of all, I am not anti-military but it’s a matter of perspective: one B-1 bomber is all we ask.” They looked at each other and nodded their heads and the program was funded that year.
We know that we have major financial challenges as a nation, but I remembered the above experiences when I heard about the building of a billion dollar embassy in Iraq and we’re told we’re going to build a billion-dollar embassy in London as well. Maybe we should be building $500 million embassies around the world and putting the balance toward vital stateside programs like the HUD 202 program!
During all the debates about stimulus funding, I kept saying we should put some of those funds into the affordable housing program because they will create temporary construction jobs, permanent management, and maintenance jobs, AND address a critical social need at the same time. I had a real-life illustration of this when we were celebrating RHF’s 50th anniversary in our Arizona communities.
We were holding our celebration at Verde View in Camp Verde and Mayor Bob Burnside spoke about how his supervisor, Darwin Rushton, worked on the plumbing in Verde View when it was under construction in 1990 and then went on to establish his own firm, Yavapai Plumbing, and Electrical. I spoke with Mr. Rushton who said that the firm is now Yavapai Mechanical and operated by his son, Jeremy. They employ 35 persons and have worked on numerous HUD buildings as well as other construction projects in Arizona. It proved my argument.
It also makes good economic sense for the nation and states.
When older adults living only on Social Security need more intense services their only other choice may be to go to a nursing home on Medicaid. To maintain them in affordable housing, with Social Service Coordinators connecting them with low- or no-cost services, costs government about 30% of what it would cost to have them in a nursing home on Medicaid.
Today there are 48 million persons in the USA 65 or older. By 2030 there will be 72 Million and by 2050, 88 million and many will be below the poverty line. Imagine what Medicaid will cost government and us as taxpayers then.
Already AARP reports that there are 11 persons on waiting lists for every vacancy which occurs in a HUD 202 building.
What do we do about this? All of us—residents, staff, board members, sponsors, churches, synagogues, business partners, families, friends, and neighbors—need to write and telephone our members of Congress and tell them it’s a matter of morals and it’s a matter of perspective as to how we choose to spend our tax dollars.
There are lots of dollars wasted and lots of foolish expenses, but dollars allocated for the HUD 202 program make good economic and moral sense!