Emeryville Commission on Aging member weighs in on priorities for Seniors in our City
Our “E’ville Voices” guest blogger series was created to net a broader range of voices within our city in flux and initiate dialogue through opinion & conversation. This contribution is by Emeryville Commission on Aging member Winifred Arbeiter. Arbeiter is a native of Queens who moved west to San Francisco in the 60’s. She’s lived in Emeryville since 2010 when she bought a condominium in the Triangle neighborhood. Arbeiter loves Emeryville’s accessibility via public transportation, the positive small business additions including Scarlett City Espresso and Propaganda Gastropub, and she “appreciates the easy walk to the Senior Center for fabulous exercise classes that contribute to her positive experiences in this special city”.
The Emeryville Commission on Aging (COA) is a standing advisory committee consisting of nine members representing Emeryville’s neighborhoods and ethnic diversity. It was created to “provide input and recommendations regarding City policies, priorities and feedback related to the health and wellness of seniors in the community”. The Commissioners are appointed by the Emeryville City Council and serve as an advisory group to the Council. Senior Center staff provide support to COA’s efforts and explorations. There are currently two COA committee vacancies posted on the City’s website for qualified residents.
Senior Hunger! Bus Shelter Benches! BART Signage! Senior Housing!
According to 2013 statistics, 1,023 Seniors reside in our City with 466 renters and 557 homeowners. Forty percent are aged 75 plus. Twenty-three percent have an annual income of $30,000 or less, with 16% living in poverty.
Following are some of the important issues the COA has or is continuing to address:
A comprehensive list has been compiled for local food giveaways and free/low-cost meals (facilities serving breakfast, lunch and dinner). The list includes locations in Emeryville, Berkeley and Oakland; and it is available through the Senior Center.
Bus Shelter Benches
At the request of the COA, benches have been installed at three Emery Go-Round stops where previously seating had not been available.
Signage at MacArthur BART Station
BART was contacted addressing the issue about the new shelters that were creating a problem for some visually impaired seniors. They were unable to see the clear shelter walls. BART corrected the problem by adding signage that made the shelter walls more visible.
Seniors are one of our extremely vulnerable populations in this current rising rental housing market. With 115 affordable housing units (EmeryVilla and Avalon) and 125 market rate beds (Bayside), the number of existing affordable senior units is not enough to sustain the growing need for housing. When seniors are forced to move, they often have to look for low-income housing which creates a new set of problems. If they have to move out of the City, they lose familiar surroundings and support systems at a time of life when it is difficult to start anew.
The COA looked at ways to improve the notification system for low-income housing wait lists for our immediate area. These wait lists open infrequently for short periods of time, and getting on a wait list is a critical step in obtaining this type of housing. Along with Senior Center staff assistance a more efficient notification system has been developed.
With the ever increasing need for additional low-income housing, the COA supports the City’s intention to build an affordable senior apartment complex on the 43rd Street Recreation Center site. In addition, recommending that the City maximize the number of units for seniors on SSI (Supplemental Security Income).
The City of Emeryville is studying an eviction and harassment protection ordinance. Staff has been directed to move forward with a draft and to provide notification to the community. Nearby cities already have “just cause” ordinances in place.
ECHO Housing (Eden Council for Hope & Opportunity) is a non-profit organization that cooperates with the City of Emeryville to provide mediation services to tenants and landlords with rental issues. If the City of Emeryville puts in place an ordinance strengthening tenant protections, the work that ECHO can do for Emeryville residents will be enhanced. EBALDC (East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation), located in Oakland, offers multiple services to seniors including assistance with finding low-income housing.
Emeryville has a long history of providing support and services for seniors. While all of the surrounding cities cut senior services during the recession, our city maintained all of its senior programs, supported by an excellent staff that were stretched thin.
Resident Participation Encouraged
Residents are encouraged to attend COA meetings and to provide suggestions regarding additional Senior issues to be addressed. The Commission on Aging meets the second Wednesday of each month at the Senior Center at 10 a.m. Visit the City’s website for further details.