Yarmouth senior housing looks to community for help

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YARMOUTH —  After providing affordable housing to independent seniors for 33 years, operators of Bartlett Circle are asking the community for financial help to help keep residents safe and secure.
In 1975, the 28-unit, low-income housing complex was created by a group of Yarmouth citizens concerned about their parents’ living situations. The group of nine formed Yarmouth Senior Housing, a non-profit organization with a volunteer board of directors. The group was able to run the housing project on the low-income rent with the help of Yarmouth residents and volunteer community service projects.
Bartlett Circle is still exclusively maintained by rent money, but officials say the houses are in desperate need of repair.
Executive Director Sandra McCatherin said while Bartlett Circle has survived 33 years without town, state or federal support, there are improvements that are necessary for the safety of the residents.
“The time has come to update this property,” she said. “Safety, emergency preparedness and accessibility are major concerns of ours.”
President Margaret Downing said the Lions Club, Rotary Club, Masonic Lodge, Boy Scouts and Yarmouth High School students have donated time and funds, and a group called Bartlett Buddies helps residents with household tasks.
“Over the years we have had enough money, volunteers and help to complete basic maintenance and repair work,” she said. “But now, 33 years later, the houses need serious improvements.”
She said as an emergency medical service volunteer, she knows the importance of wider doorways and ramps for wheelchairs.
“In 1975 there were different safety standards,” she said. “As of now, we cannot fit gurneys in the units.”
Marion Miles has lived in the same unit at Bartlett Circle since the year it was built. She is the only original resident still living at Bartlett Circle.
“First off, I want to tell you I love it here,” she said. “I have met a lot of people.”
She said residents play cards together, go out to lunch and stay active.
But Miles, a sprightly 86 years old, said there should be renovations and upgrades to the houses and pathways.
“It’s too bad they put those posts right in front of the doorways,” she said. “When my husband needed it, you couldn’t get the stretcher in or out.”
She said most residents have difficulty walking on the sidewalks because the pavement is cracked and uneven, and often filled with ice in the winter.
“I’ve already fallen once this year,” Miles said. “Any renovations would be good.”
According to McCatherin and Downing, the first phase of work will include safety, accessibility, walkway and lighting improvements and is estimated to cost about $414,000. The second phase will include upgrades to the community building, parking spaces, and green areas estimated at about $216,000.
McCatherin said they already have about $240,000 from refinancing, but need to raise about $390,00 to complete the upgrades. She said the board was also looking into grant opportunities.
“We want to keep it local as it started with a community project,” she said. “People have been so helpful and supportive.”
Local architect Frank Oliva has helped to draw up improvement plans, and local contractors will  return construction estimates by next week.
McCatherin said she will present the renovation project to the Planning Board, and will approach the Chamber of Commerce and Community Services for help.
To kick off the community awareness portion of the project, the residents of Bartlett Circle will hold a yard sale and bake sale May 30 to raise money for the improvements.
“Every little bit helps,” Downing said. “This community has been so helpful and looks after its own. We need their help now.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net.

n-yarBartlettCircle.JPGExecutive Director Sandra McCatherin, left, visits with Bartlett Circle resident Marion Miles, who has lived in her home since the Yarmouth housing development opened in 1976. She said renovations to the walkways, lighting and doorways are needed. (Anderson photo)

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FYI: To get involved in the Bartlett Circle renovation project, contact Sandra McCatherin at 829-4354 or visit bartlettcircle.com.