Place residence

$975,000 grant will help Mecosta, Osceola county seniors ‘age in place’

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTY — Disability Advocates of Kent County has received a $975,000 grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist low-income homeowners in Mecosta, Osceola, Montcalm, Ionia and Allegan counties, a recent news release from the organization said .

This funding will enable housing organizations in these areas to make safety and functional home modifications and limited repairs to meet the needs of low-income senior homeowners that allow them to “age in place,” the news release said.

Disability Advocates was the only organization in Michigan to receive an award from the HUD’s $30 million “Older Adults Home Modification program,” the organization said. The goal of this funding is to deliver home modification services to qualified beneficiaries in primarily rural areas.

Peggy Helsel, development director at Disability Advocates of Kent County told the Pioneer they are just getting started with serving homeowners with disabilities and seniors with the funding.

“We have our first 10 clients, including two from Mecosta County, and will continue to reach out to educate people on the availability of our services,” Helsel said.

The organization is partnering with Habitat for Humanity in Mecosta County as well as Habitats in surrounding counties, and recently reached out to USDA Rural Development staff in Mecosta and surrounding counties, she said.

“We presented to a group of seniors through the Commission on Aging in Mecosta County to educate them on the availability of the services and will continue these presentations to inform people of this opportunity,” she said.

Aileen Waldron, area specialist for USDA Rural Development said the organization is currently working in partnership with the Disabilities Advocates of Kent County to assist households in Mecosta County with home repair financing.

“Rural Development provides loans and grants for a wide range of home repairs,” Waldron said. “Whenever feasible, we work with other agencies and organizations to provide services to eligible households.”

Examples of eligible home modifications include the installation of grab bars, railings and lever-handled doorknobs and faucets, as well as the installation of adaptive equipment, such as non-slip strips for tubs/showers or stairs.

These enhancements will enable older adults to remain in their homes rather than move to nursing homes or other assisted care facilities, the news release said.

To qualify, recipients must be age 62 or older, have proof of ownership of the home they live in and have income that does not exceed 80% of the median income for their area.

In Mecosta and Osceola counties the median income is $36,150 for an individual, $41,300 for a family of two and $51,600 for a family of four.

Disability Advocates of Kent County executive director David Bulkowski said he is eager to expand the organization’s services to assist rural homeowners who can benefit from the home accessibility modifications.

“This is an exciting endeavor for our organization because, as our name implies, we focus on Kent County, but the same needs apply to our friends in neighboring counties, so we are eager to expand our reach with this programing,” Bulkoski said in a news release. “We are very grateful to our state representatives who guided us through the application process.”

Congressman Peter Meijer added, “I am pleased that HUD recognized the good work Disability Associates of Kent County does for our community, and I know their organization will use this award to improve the lives of seniors right here in West Michigan. I look forward to seeing what they are able to accomplish with this support and commend them for their important work.”

For more information about the program or to see if you qualify, contact Lisa with Disability Advocates at 616-323-2222.