Responding to staffing and budget cuts at the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) last year, the Walsh administration is conducting a survey called “Making Connections” to see what services BHA seniors and disabled residents need.
“In May of last year, the BHA eliminated its resident services program for elderly/disabled residents as a result of deep federal budget cuts,” said BHA spokesperson Lydia Agro in an email to the Gazette. “Going forward, the BHA joined in partnership with the Commission on Affairs of the Elderly to better explore the needs of its elderly and disabled residents.”
She said the administration wants to “ensure residents are better connected to the various resources in the community that will meet those needs for them.”
Agro said the BHA has about 4,300 residents aged 62 or over living in public housing developments throughout the city. She said the majority of those residents live in elderly/disabled public housing sites, but some also live in family developments.
BHA has sites for elderly and disabled residents in Jamaica Plain at 125 Amory Street and the M.M. Collins Apartments housing development on Pond Street.
Emily Shea, the head of the Commission on Affairs of the Elderly, said in a phone interview with the Gazette that she was “thrilled” about the survey and said “we’re excited to be a part of it.” She said anecdotally that some issues seniors have previously raised have included help with benefit applications and assistance with utility bill payments.
BHA, which is the agency conducting the survey, will have trained volunteers go door-to-door to all BHA elderly/disabled developments, according to Agro. She said the survey, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete, will be conducted every week at a different site through the end of July.
“The residents’ responses are recorded, and if residents give their approval, those results will be shared with the Commission on Affairs of the Elderly for follow-up action,” said Agro.
She said the survey, which was announced in February, has received a positive reception so far from residents.
“We have had over a 30 percent completion rate at each of the four developments we have visited so far, and volunteers reported feeling welcomed into the developments,” said Agro.
When asked for a ballpark figure on how much funding might be needed for new services, she said its “premature” to estimate how much, as that will be determined once the surveys are completed and recommendations are finalized.
The City currently provides an assortment of services for seniors, including assistance with housing and health care applications, information about medical insurance and taxi coupons, according to Agro.
“Advocates at the Elderly Commission are assigned to neighborhoods and they assist and advocate for those seniors in their areas,” said Agro. “There are also many other organizations throughout the city providing services to seniors.”