Most people, as they age, would appreciate a few more conveniences and comfort: an elevator, help with chores, or maybe just peace and quiet. Alliance Housing’s aging rooming house tenants were motivation to pursue funding to build a place where they could find these amenities. We also learned that the only portion of the homeless population that was growing (and had tripled in the last 12 years) was older adults. The streets and shelters are no place to call home when you’re over 55 years old. Homeless older adults are more vulnerable to thefts and homelessness is harder on their health.
Minnehaha Commons, Alliance’s newest property, is designed for singles, ages 55 and older, who have experienced long-term homelessness. Seven of the forty-four studio apartments are designated for people who are already residents in Alliance Housing, and they were the first to move in. Tom and Ed are settling into their new homes and agreed to share their stories.
Tom, age 79, has spent most of his life adapting to new surroundings. He was sent to reform school when he was nine. After being there a while, he ran away and lived life on the streets before getting locked up in prison for a felony charge. He then spent most of his young adult years adapting to the culture of prison life.
Tom also lived in his car for three years, before moving into Alliance’s rooming house in January of 2015. The rooming house gave Tom a roof over his head, an address to receive mail, and a place to call home.
But the rooming house was becoming very difficult for Tom as he grew older. As he said, “I love cooking, but I hate having to go down to the basement (at the rooming house) and stay down there while it’s cooking. You couldn’t do anything but stay down there the whole time you’re cooking. Now I’ll be able to throw something in the oven and hop in the shower.” In addition to making the basic act of feeding himself far more convenient, Minnehaha Commons has an elevator that will allow Tom to easily get to his third floor home without the pain of stairs. He’s also excited to be able to finally watch each of the 41 channels his TV allows, all while enjoying his signature Southern biscuits and gravy. He is already adapting to his new, Alliance home.
Originally from California, Ed, now 62, moved to Minnesota with his wife and children in 1989. After he and his wife divorced, Ed spent the next 17 years living with friends but mostly living on the streets and in various shelters. Then in 2013, Ed was hit by a delivery truck, which crushed his right foot. At the time of the accident, Ed was under the influence and therefore unable to file an insurance claim. Swamped with hospital bills, Ed was sent to a nursing home to recover for four months. Since 2016, Ed has lived at the Alliance rooming house. His apartment was on the first floor, so somewhat more accessible than Tom’s, but he still had to go up and downstairs to make a meal, and down the hall to go to the bathroom. He is very happy to now have his own bathroom and kitchen at Minnehaha Commons.
In addition to the devastating injury to his foot, Ed also suffers from bone spurs, a hereditary disease that causes him to experience extreme joint pain. And Ed has had two major shoulder surgeries. His doctor tells him that before long, he’ll need a wheelchair. Fortunately, Minnehaha Commons provides Ed and other residents the accessibility and convenience he will need as he ages. His bathroom has a walk-in shower, which can also accommodate a wheelchair, and many grab-bars. The height of his bed is adjustable, ready to change as his needs change. And all the apartments are fully furnished. Ed is excited to personalize his new home to fulfill his needs.
We look forward to seeing Tom, Ed and others create a home for themselves in a new community. Touchstone Mental Health staff is on-site to assist with health and personal needs that can help build stability and well-being. As it is often said, it takes a village and Touchstone has become a valuable part of the Alliance village.