Independence in old age is a goal for many, but when older adults lack the material resources, physical capabilities, and support system to fulfill their most basic needs, the barriers to independence are sometimes greater than any single individual can bear. Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.) exists to break down those barriers.

Founded in 1982, this Housing Action Illinois member is truly unique in the services it provides to Chicago’s low-income older adults. Whether it’s through help with a move, groceries, home repairs, or housing itself, H.O.M.E. fosters joy, independence, and community for seniors, ensuring that older adults age with society and not out of it.

As part of their Upkeep and Repair Program, H.O.M.E.’s full-time Home Repair Specialists answer the call when anything needs fixing while ensuring that no seniors are taken advantage of. In addition to basic household repairs, the specialists make seniors’ living spaces safer and more accessible by installing things like bathroom grab bars and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. In 2019, H.O.M.E. launched an Upkeep and Repair Plus Program in partnership with Rush University Health System where nurses and occupational therapists assess the clients living situation and offer additional home improvement suggestions based on their needs.

A client exits H.O.M.E.’s shopping bus on a grocery run

H.O.M.E.’s wheel-chair accessible shopping bus offers a safe means of transportation to and from local stores and the Moving Program supports clients as they navigate the stresses of moving into a new home. “It’s an experience that I’ve never had before,” says Linda Shannon, a client of the Moving Program, which subsidizes either a portion or the entire of cost of moving. “Every time I would get up to do something they would say, ‘Ms. Shannon, sit down. Ms. Shannon, don’t worry. Ms. Shannon, we got this.’” These services make it possible for seniors to continue leading independent lives, making everyday decisions on their own accord, while receiving the support needed to execute all those decisions. In the 2018 fiscal year, H.O.M.E. assisted in 72 moves, made 885 home repairs, and went on 2,374 shopping trips.

In addition to these supportive services, H.O.M.E. provides affordable, intergenerational housing where families, young adults, and seniors live in one of their three buildings: Nathalie Salmon HousePat Crowley House, and Blackhawk Manor. This housing model helps prevent common feelings of isolation and loneliness in old age by connecting senior residents with people of different generations and with each other through peer companionship activities like museum and restaurant outings. “I didn’t want to be isolated,” says Lesley, one of the 109 individuals housed by H.O.M.E. in the 2018 fiscal year. “I’d go downhill if I lived by myself. I have depression and anxiety and can sink far into that. This is a very ‘up’ environment and that helps.” This environment is created with the help of hundreds of warm and caring volunteers, Resident Assistants, and families that have grown out of H.O.M.E.’s programming.   

Residents of one of H.O.M.E.’s intergenerational housing programs bonding over food

“Life doesn’t segregate by age and why would we?” says Gail Schechter, H.O.M.E.’s Executive Director and former Housing Action Illinois Board Member. “H.O.M.E. is there to bring people together, people of all ages. We deliberately reach out to people who are marginalized and say welcome to our community. Welcome to our neighborhood.”