South Portland launches home-repair program for seniors, disabled

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The Housing Authority has started a program to help seniors and the disabled remain in their homes.

The program, called Home Modification for Seniors and the Disabled, launched on March 10.

Michael Hulsey, SPHA executive director, said, “Essentially, homeowners contact us for a simple assessment of their property, and we use the results to focus on high-quality safety enhancement.” 

“We are looking for South Portland homeowners to work with us at our expense, for simple safety issues,” Hulsey said. “Most work would get done in one day or less; more complicated work would get contracted out when needed. A grant from MaineHousing pays for the program expenses.”

Melanie Cahill, program coordinator for the HMS program, said the housing authority is receiving a $50,000 grant from MaineHousing. Westbrook, Old Town and Fort Fairfield will also receive the same grant. 

Cahill said the grant money will be used to implement the pilot program, with an aim to spend about $1,200 to $2,000 per house. The goal is to upgrade 20 homes. 

Cahill said typical installations will include grab bars, hand-held shower heads, transfer benches, raised toilet seats, handrails, and more accessible door knobs. 

“When a homeowner contacts us, we schedule an appointment to discuss their concerns, and take a good look at what needs to be done for the homeowner to stay safely in their home,” Cahill said. “We have experience selecting and installing equipment and can offer suggestions.

HMS also makes smaller home repairs, including securing flooring, motion lights, electrical upgrades (like GFI outlets near water sources), adjusting exterior doors, and repairs to stair treads.

“Input from homeowners is crucial for us to be successful,” Cahill said.

South Portland Housing Authority stated in a press release that officials are “excited to connect housing and health care in innovative ways through this Home Modification Program. The very small per home investment helps to ultimately improve health outcomes and can defer or decrease medical costs.”

Cahill said part of the grant requires a health outcome that results in fewer falls and fractures. SPHA also wants to keep seniors and disabled homeowners in their homes longer.

To qualify for the program, residents must live in South Portland; be at least 60 years old or have a disability, and own their home or live in a house owned by a family member. They must also have than $50,000 in liquid assets and an income of less than $43,050 for a single person, $49,205 for two people, or $55,350 for three people.

The Housing Authority operates public housing for low-income residents 55 years and older, seniors who are 62 years or older, and handicapped or disabled people age 18 and older.

SPHA oversees 700 units at St. Cyr Court (also known as Broadway West), Landry Village, Hazard Towers (also known as 425 Broadway), Mill Cove, Adam Court, Ridgeland Estates, Ridgeland Gardens, and Betsy Ross House.  

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter@melaniesochan.

Ridgeland Gardens near Cash Corner is a 44-unit apartment complex operated by the South Portland Housing Authority for persons 55 years of age or older.

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