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Posts Tagged ‘services’

 

Photo: Kristen Norman/NPR
Nearly half of the people in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side (where artist Matthew Hoffman created the above installation) live below the poverty line. Seniors living there had no idea there were public services that might help them.

Many older people want to stay in their homes a long time — if not forever. But when a friend commented the other day that if you stay too long, “the only person you eventually socialize with is your caregiver,” it got me thinking about the down side.

That’s why I was curious when Ina Jaffe weighed in at National Public Radio (NPR).

From her report: “Debra Thompson is throwing a block party. She has good weather for it — never a sure thing in Chicago — a warm and sunny autumn afternoon. Music is playing, hot dogs are grilling.

“But this party isn’t just for fun. Thompson is the volunteer chairwoman of Englewood Village, an organization that connects low-income older adults on the city’s South Side with services from nutrition to job assistance to home repair. And this is how she is reaching out to potential new members. …

“The Englewood Village has been around since 2015. But its roots go back 17 years and all the way to Boston, where Susan McWhinney-Morse and her friends were grappling with anxieties about aging. They wanted to stay in their homes as long as possible. They wanted to remain in their community on Beacon Hill.

“After a couple of years of effort, they produced the concept now known as the village. It’s a membership-run organization that provides access to services like transportation, help with household chores, even trouble-shooting computer problems, along with classes and social activities. …

“An independent organization has been founded to support the expansion of villages. It’s called the Village to Village Network, which has a map on its website showing where villages are located. …

“This fall, we traveled around the country to take a look at how villages are evolving. We found an effort in Chicago to create villages that serve low-income communities of color. We found a village in rural California where older adults don’t just receive services, they also provide them. Ultimately, what we found was that in practice, the village model isn’t so much a fixed formula, as an expression of older adults’ desires to age with dignity and independence. …

“At her Chicago block party, Debra Thompson cannot be ignored, with her dyed blond hair and a bright yellow T-shirt. She calls out to everyone, hoping they’ll fill out her survey so she can find out what they need. And Englewood seniors have a lot of needs. Nearly half of the people in this African-American neighborhood live below the poverty line. But many of them have no idea that there are public services that might help them. Thompson wants to change that.

“And she persists even when some people are reluctant to put their names on anything. …

“Thompson also passes out information on a lottery for free roof repairs and discounts on utilities and tells people about a service that can help frail older people remain in their homes. …

“[One] observer of the block party is Joyce Gallagher, and she likes what she sees. She is Chicago’s deputy commissioner for senior services. Gallagher loved the village concept from the first time she heard about it and wanted every older adult to have access to such a supportive community. The hang-up was the dues. The Chicagoans who could benefit the most from a village couldn’t fork over a few hundred bucks a year on top of paying for services.

“Then Gallagher had her lightbulb moment. What were the dues for? They paid for office space and computers and phones. But her department already had all of that in its 21 senior centers. …

“So Gallagher began to call meetings at senior centers around the city to see whether anyone was even interested in becoming part of this. She had no expectations about how she would be received. …

“In Englewood, Debra Thompson was interested. In fact, the Village has become her cause. ‘I devote every day to my seniors,’ she says. ‘I’m always looking for ways and partnerships and issues that can assist us to assist them in achieving what they need.’ ”

Read how the movement started in Boston, here. My husband’s friend, who lives on Beacon Hill, told us about it in 2000. Other forms of the concept are practiced around the country. For example, check out several groups in Vermont, here.

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As in other cities nationwide, relations between communities and police are often tense in Boston, but here is a small effort that focuses on reducing arrests and getting help for people who are troubled.

Evan Allen writes at the Boston Globe, “When Officers Michael Sullivan and Jeff Driscoll and senior crisis clinician Ben Linsky head out on their beat in Mattapan, they seek out the most vulnerable citizens: the drug-addicted, the homeless, and the mentally ill. Theirs is the only unit of its kind in the city, and its mission since it was started in February is to help, not arrest, people [with problems]. It’s part of a broader effort in the Police Department to work with the community. …

“Sullivan, Driscoll, and Linsky, who make up Mattapan’s ‘Operation Helping Hands,’ spend two nights a week freed from dispatch calls. Instead, they get to know the people on the streets, figure out what services they need, and try to provide them.

“ ‘You’re one part social worker, one part cop, and one part older brother,’ Sullivan said. …

“The number that [Police Chief William] Evans is most proud of is arrests: for the past year and a half, officers have been locking up fewer and fewer people. The city saw a 15 percent reduction in 2015, followed by the 10 percent drop so far this year.

” ‘When I came on the job, you measured what kind of an officer someone was by quantitative statistics. How many arrests. How many moving violations. We don’t do that anymore,’ Evans said. ‘I think our officers get it: It’s not about throwing people behind bars, it’s about getting them services and opportunities.’

“Driscoll, a 39-year-old father of two, has been on the force for 10 years, all of them in Mattapan. Before that, he served for several years in Watertown. He and Sullivan, a 32-year-old father of a 2-year-old boy, who joined the force three years ago, both grew up in police families, wanting to be officers. When Mattapan Captain Haseeb Hosein decided to start Helping Hands, they were an easy choice.

“ ‘With everything that’s going on in this country, the biggest thing is trust and fear. So how do we break those two barriers down? I think we break it down by building relationships,’ Hosein said. ‘They’re really good guys who understand the environment that we’re in, that we need to go the extra mile.’ ” More.

Getting people services that really create lasting change would be ideal, but who can cavil with de-escalating potential blowups? Ensuring that you don’t make matters worse than they are already is surely an important step.

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
“Operation Helping Hands,” made up of two officers and a crisis clinician, is the only Boston Police unit of its kind.

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