One wish recipient, affordable housing resident Tim from Dayton, Ohio, was able to visit the ocean for the first time.
Marisa McDonald One wish recipient, affordable housing resident Tim from Dayton, Ohio, was able to visit the ocean for the first time.

1. A Wish for Seniors

Wishes are coming true for seniors at affordable housing properties across the nation. Affordable housing provider GHC Housing Partners has partnered with Wish of a Lifetime, an organization founded in 2008 by Jeremy Bloom—an entrepreneur and the only athlete in history to both ski in the Winter Olympics and be drafted into the NFL—in honor of his grandmother. The organization helps provide life-enriching wishes for seniors and aims to create a positive shift in the way society view and values the nation’s older generation.

“Granting wishes for individuals living in affordable housing has paved the way for our organization to serve physically, socially, and mentally isolated individuals. We’ve seen that our wishes not only have a lasting positive impact on those we serve by helping to alleviate the effects of isolation, but they have the power to inspire others to think differently about aging and the elderly,” says Steven Glaser, program director for Wish of a Lifetime. “Each wish is a celebration of rich life stories that are full of sacrifice, accomplishment, perseverance, and purpose.”

As a “purpose and passion” partner, Sherman Oaks, Calif.–based GHC has offered up its senior housing communities nationwide and invited other senior housing developer peers to nominate their communities. Then the on-site property managers and social service coordinators play an integral role in soliciting stories and submitting applications for the seniors’ wishes.

“It’s creating hope, wonder and magic for our seniors,” says Michael Clark, GHC’s co-founder and chief investment officer. “We are trying to flesh out wishes for those who are in the later part of their lives and give them a sense of hope. I was connected to Wish of a Lifetime a few years back through a dear friend. My grandmother, Nancy Clark, had one last big wish to go to her 60th high school reunion in Oregon, but she fell very ill before that wish could be fulfilled. Timing didn't work out, but it led me to find Wish of a Lifetime and understand what these wishes mean and how important it is to honor and respect our elderly population, especially those who might not have the means to achieve their last great wishes. So through that experience, I was lucky enough to get to be a part of many people's wishes."

This is the second year for GHC to partner with Wish of a Lifetime. Clark says GHC helped provide 40 wishes in 2018 and is on track for 60 this year. These wishes have ranged from a Dayton, Ohio, resident traveling to see the ocean for the first time, a 92-year-old World War II veteran paratrooper who wanted to go skydiving one last time, and a New York woman who is flying with her daughter and granddaughter to spread her husband’s ashes on the beach where they met in San Diego.

GHC is a funding partner for the organization, but Wish of a Lifetime also raises money through auctions, events, and additional sponsors.

“We are trying to get as many of our peers involved with us so we can do it together,” Clark says. “If we could get six other affordable housing companies like GHC, then we would be off to the races and hit 1,000 wishes next year.”

Courtesy The Michaels Organization

2. Scholarship Support

A number of affordable housing firms have established scholarship programs to make it possible for residents to go to college or pursue other education. Here are a few examples:

The Michaels Organization founder Michael J. Levitt established The Michaels Organization Educational Foundation in 1991. This year, the foundation awarded more than $1 million in educational grants to 294 residents in properties owned by the Camden, N.J.–based firm. With these latest scholarships, the total amount awarded over the past 29 years has surpassed $7.9 million, which has gone to help approximately 3,000 people.

USA Properties Fund, a leading developer and owner based in Roseville, Calif., has provided approximately $1.1 million in assistance to its residents. Since 2011, The JB Brown Fund, a partnership between USA Properties Fund and LifeSTEPs, has awarded 286 college scholarships to residents. Since 2013, the fund has awarded 695 scholarships to more than 300 youths so they can play sports. In addition, the JB Brown Fund has helped nearly 350 families and seniors who were facing a financial emergency. During the first nine months of this year, the fund, which is named after the founder of USA Properties Fund, has raised about $138,000, a 37% increase over the same nine-month period in 2018.

Eden Housing will be awarding more than $52,000 in scholarships this year to help 38 inspiring residents attend Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, as well as many other colleges. Since the program’s inception in 1993, the Hayward, Calif.–based nonprofit has awarded nearly 500 scholarships totaling more than $650,000 to many deserving residents. The scholarship program was created to honor Howard T. Collins, a former member of Eden Housing’s board who believed in education and opportunity for all.Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) has created an innovative program to help some of its young residents further their education.

In 2017, the Boston-based nonprofit launched the Amy S. Anthony College Savings Accounts at its largest community, the 745-unit Hawthorne Place Apartments in Independence, Mo. The program was established to honor POAH founder Amy S. Anthony, who retired as CEO in June 2015 and passed away in 2018.

POAH creates college savings accounts for every child between 5 and 19 who live at Hawthorne Place and whose families are participating in the Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program. It’s estimated that more than 600 children are in eligible households. POAH provides the initial $250 seed deposits for each child’s account and ongoing matching funds.

So far, it has opened 67 accounts and continues to work with the families. While the children have been able to accumulate over $18,000 in college savings, the parents and other adults in the FSS program have saved more than $120,000 in just two years.

Holy Rosary Credit Union is the depository institution for the savings program, collecting families’ savings and matching deposits, and holding funds for educational purposes. It also opened a cashless branch within Hawthorne’s community center to assist families in opening and servicing the accounts.

By combining the college savings accounts with the FSS program at Hawthorne Place, POAH hopes to encourage both increased earnings and targeted savings to promote opportunity for children and their parents.

Courtesy LINC Housing

3. Positive Image

Residents are looking and feeling good at Liberty Village, a 38-unit development for veteran households in Beaumont, Calif. Since 2018, the Linc Housing property has provided free haircuts twice a month from volunteer barbers as well as a closet where residents can “shop” for donated clothes. Resident service coordinator Dale Wright named the clothing closet “Liberty Rack” because, as he describes it, “It’s just like Nordstrom Rack but on wheels.”

His approach, which emphasizes dignity and respect, carries over to other areas as well. Wright and residents grow and prepare healthy foods, with meals served on real dinnerware instead of paper products.

Courtesy Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp.

4. College Tours

Each year, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. (TNDC) takes a group of youth to visit colleges and universities around the country. The effort is part of the San Francisco–based nonprofit’s long-running Tenderloin After-School Program, which is open to children from the ages of 7 to 18 from lower-income families in the community, many of which are residents of TNDC properties.

This year, TNDC took 16 youths to visit schools in Chicago. Without the inspiring program, many of the participants would not have the opportunity to see . According to officials, it’s a way to help broaden horizons, allow children to set and work toward goals, and teach the value of hard work.

Courtesy Jamboree

5. STEM for Women

Twenty women living in Jamboree housing communities recently participated in STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and math) computer training, a field in which women have been significantly underrepresented. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, the program was a collaboration involving affordable housing nonprofit Jamboree; the OC STEM Initiative; the University of California, Irvine; and nonprofit Cielo. The course was a chance for the women to learn new computer skills for the job market as well as to use the skills for their own social enterprises, says Jamboree COO George Searcy. Upon completion of the training, which was offered in English and Spanish, participants were given a computer loaded with AutoCAD software.