Community Action to fund home modifications for elders via $1M grant

  • Home improvement volunteers pause for a photo with homeowners. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2021 5:04:50 PM

GREENFIELD — Community Action Pioneer Valley, in partnership with LifePath, was one of 32 nonprofits across the country to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to cover the costs of home modifications for elders, allowing them to age in place.

The $1 million grant (for a three-year period) is expected to provide 180 elders in Franklin and Hampshire counties and the North Quabbin region with home repairs and modifications through HUD’s new Older Adult Home Modification Program.

“We really see firsthand how much people want to stay in their homes,” said Peter Wingate, director of Community Action’s Energy Programs. “They’ve built a life in their homes. Anything we can do to prolong their life in their home, I think is important.”

Thanks to the grant, home repairs and modifications will be provided at no cost to eligible homeowners who are 62 years old or older with income below 80% of median income, according to a Community Action press release.

Some modifications the program might provide include making stairs more accessible, or installing grab bars in bathrooms or showers, Wingate said.

“This is not a home rehab grant,” he said. “This is really a grant for making homes more livable for elders.”

LifePath, as Community Action’s partner, will receive roughly 25% of the award to support occupational therapist evaluations and consultations, and volunteer home modification support, as part of the program.

“Concern about being able to stay in one’s home repeatedly comes to the top of the needs list in our assessments and our work with older adults,” Barbara Bodzin, executive director of LifePath, said in a press release. “This program will help many older adults achieve their wishes to age in place in Franklin County and the North Quabbin.”

Of the 32 nonprofits nationally to receive funding as part of the new Older Adult Home Modification Program, Community Action was the only one named from Massachusetts.

“I have to admit, I’m pretty pleased,” Wingate said. “We worked really hard to put this grant together, and I think it really reflects what Community Action and LifePath bring to the table.”

Wingate said Community Action hasn’t received a final date yet from the Department of Housing and Urban Development as to when the program will start. When it does, elders will be able to reach out to Community Action or LifePath directly.

“We’re hoping that will be within the calendar year 2021,” he said.

Wingate said he believes there is a lot of work Community Action can do with elders that will go beyond the scope of the grant, such as making home energy repairs for elders who participate in the program — something the nonprofit has a long history of providing, Wingate said.

“The HUD grant would not directly pay for that,” he said. “But we have other funding … for those added on benefits.”

Community Action Pioneer Valley Executive Director Clare Higgins noted in a press release that the nonprofit has provided fuel assistance, weatherization and heating systems replacements to help lower-income seniors live comfortably in their homes.

“We are excited to partner with LifePath to expand opportunities for elders to stay safe and secure in their homes,” she said.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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