Mayor Brandon Scott on Wednesday announced that the city and its nonprofit partners would be contributing a total of $9.6 million to the Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) program. Image via Facebook Live.

Baltimore City government and nonprofit organizations are contributing $9.6 million to repair and modify homes of older adults through the Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) program, Mayor Brandon Scott announced on Wednesday.

The investment will help make homes safer for older adults, and allow aging residents to remain part of their communities, Scott said.

“Every person has the right to age with dignity in the comfort and security of their own home in their neighborhood of their choosing, and we all have a responsibility to make this a reality for older Baltimoreans,” he said.

The funds will be used for upgrades such as grab bars, electrical and plumbing repairs, and roof and furnishing replacements, Scott said.

The repairs and modifications will prevent blight and deterioration, stabilize home values, improve safety, and allow families to build generational wealth, Scott said.

Cathy Brill, executive director of the Leonard & Helen R. Stulman Charitable Foundation, said that before HUBS, many residents did not hear back for years after submitting applications for improvements – if they heard back at all.

“We were seeing neighborhoods harmed as home after home would deteriorate because the older adults on fixed incomes couldn’t afford to keep them,” Brill said.

In 2015, nonprofit and city leaders designed a better system for older adults to get their homes repaired or modified, ultimately creating HUBS.

The $9.6 million investment in HUBS includes a commitment of $3.5 million from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund; $4.5 million from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation; and $1.6 million from the Stulman Foundation and Keswick.

That money will allow HUBS to assist more than 1,500 older adults over the next three years, said Lauren Averella, director of elder services at Civic Works.

“This funding will greatly help our mission which is to help older adults stay in the communities of their choice,” Averella said.

Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos (D-District 14), said she has been visiting neighborhoods where properties were on the city’s tax sale list or where homes were in disrepair and residents couldn’t afford improvements.

HUBS allows “residents who have invested their lives here … to age in place comfortably,” Ramos said.

Ramos added that Baltimore is “finally seeing the fruits of our labor” from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, but that the city and its partners must go further.

“This is the beginning,” she said. “We need more money in the trust fund. We need more money to be able to serve more people.”

Maria Johnson Darby, chief operating officer at Keswick, said her organization is thrilled to work with its partners to enable older community members to “live well, age well and be well.”

“By pooling our resources with other funders, Keswick recognizes that we can exponentially increase our ability to positively impact the health and well being of older people in Baltimore City, so they can remain living in their homes, in their communities, doing the things they love for as long as possible.”

Earl Millet, program director at the Weinberg Foundation, said older adults not only deserve to “recoup some of what they’ve put in” to their neighborhoods, but they are also “a vital, active part of our community right now.”

Millet shared the story of an older Baltimore resident who uses a wheelchair and could not use the front steps to leave her home.

After HUBS installed a ramp, the resident became more involved with her community.

“That particular older adult then went out every day at school time to act as a crossing guard to check in with the youth coming back and forth from school,” Millet said. “It’s that vital piece that really makes a community.”

He called such improvements “a matter of life and death” for some city residents.

Alice Kennedy, acting commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development, said the city and community partners have a responsibility to care for Baltimore’s older population.

“Quality of life is something that we all strive for … I believe it’s our social responsibility to ensure the quality of life for our older adults and our elders in our community,” Kennedy said. “They have given so much and we have so much more to give to them.”

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...