CAPSBC Helping Seniors Beat the Heat
By Dianne Anderson
Seniors sweltering under scorching triple-digit heat are making the usual budget choices about what’s more important – buying food, or stretching their high cost medications by skipping doses, or turning on their air conditioner.
Behind that problem of taking from one bill to put toward another is often the other priority, the high cost of rent.
In California, home utilities, water and energy run about $350 a month, twice as much as a few short years ago. It always runs higher in the inland area, which for seniors on a fixed income, has been brutal.
Cooling centers are open at local libraries, but the elderly are more physically at-risk and can’t easily make it out due to mobility or transportation issues, not to mention the fear of COVID-19 exposure in close quarters.
But there is hope.
Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County (CAPSBC) helps seniors survive by helping them free up cash.
Xiomara Henriquez-Ortega said with their Energy, Education and Environmental Services Program, seniors do not have to sit in a hot house these days.
She encourages all seniors to enroll in their weatherization assistance program to receive a full home assessment and any health, safety or energy-related issues can be fixed, according to guidelines.
“Eligible seniors who are enrolled in our weatherization assistance program are provided with a temporary cooling unit until a weatherization appointment is scheduled,” said Henriquez-Ortega, CAPSBC manager of administration.
SBCAP serves low income individuals, and most programs assist all those within 200% of federal poverty guidelines.
For food access, they have mobile pantry units and service five centers specifically for seniors. Their mobile laundry and shower unit goes out weekly, available through their partners at community events.
“These programs are interesting because many of our food distribution sites are organized by seniors. We have over 100 locations across the county, a majority at faith-based organizations, but many of their site recipients are seniors on a fixed income,” she said.
After the rental moratorium ended, many landlords spiked rents by at least a third. Through their Family Development Program, she said the program offers rental assistance, rapid rehousing, and emergency housing with motel vouchers to any income-qualified client that comes in for assistance.
With so many people struggling, even post-COVID, their program is seeing individuals with multiple months behind in rent and on the verge of evictions, or about to get their home foreclosed.
They have a network of partnerships to refer seniors for help with housing navigation, and assisting individuals to retain their housing is a big priority.
“We’re looking at bills that come in at $20-30,000 that we haven’t seen before. We can only make a dent based on our funding availability,” she said. “We are getting an overwhelming number of applications coming in for rental assistance, that’s the #1 request right now.”
According to a recent report from the National Equity Atlas, as of last month over 217,000 California renters were still waiting for rental assistance. They estimate between 15,000 and 33,000 first-time applicants will still be in line after eviction protections expire on July 1.
They are calling on policymakers to keep with the Housing is Key program and cover 100% of tenant debt.
Among other recommendations, they want transparency in denials for assistance, and to implement a program to help low income renters struggling with extreme housing costs. They want more help for people with limited English proficiency, disabilities, or those with limited access to technology.
The organization is calling for targeted rental help for communities of color to combat historical patterns of segregation and racial discrimination in housing opportunities.
Pastor Paul Jones, local community resource and food advocate, works with local senior centers as well as individual seniors that call for help.
Most of the time, those calling him are seniors.
“They are somebody’s mama, so I’m gonna take care of them first. We get them food, we’ve been blessed to get them refrigerators, couches, and dining room tables. That’s just a God-blessed thing. They call on a Monday and someone else calls on a Wednesday [with a donation].”
His program gives away clothing and distributes hot meals on Saturdays. He said they are also working closely with a foster care provider, and help supply diapers to a nonprofit program that deals with teen moms.
He sees people having to make tough choices between food and rent just to stay afloat in this economy, even if it means not turning on the air conditioning. One recent donation came through that really made a difference.
He was able to get 100 fans out to the community.
“They didn’t have to turn on the air conditioner, it’s a remote fan, and we just started finding seniors that needed it,” he said.
Lately, another program focus has been elder abuse that he is administering under a grant from the state.
With the current economy, elder abuse could take various forms, such as what happened in the 2008 recession when grandparents were pushed out of their homes, or entire families moving back in to deal with high rental costs.
He also cautions people to hold tight to their Medi-Cal number.
“One of the biggest things about elder abuse is with Medi-cal. After you give up your Medi-Cal number, they can use your number to get themselves services,” he said.
When it comes to resources, he said there are a lot of elderly, or even the low income community at large, that do not know how or where to get resources, even when they are available.
“I do the research and get back to them. We helped a couple of seniors get out of the apartments they were in, and get into [more affordable] apartments. It’s just rough out there for anybody,” he said. “I had one young lady in my church paying $2,800 a month for a 2-bedroom apt and they just went up to $3400 a month.”
For more information:
See CAPSBC Family Development and rental assistance, see https://www.capsbc.org/family-development
See CAPSBC Mobile Food Pantry schedule, see https://bit.ly/3A5DZZt
See CAPSBC weatherization and energy assistance, see
Also, here is a link to the cooling centers in San Bernardino County:
To learn more about elder abuse or access services, see www.bejcrc.org
or call 909.289.1227
To see the level of rent debt by race in America, https://nationalequityatlas.org/rent-debt