A Member’s Story

My Journey To Find Home At Low Income Senior Housing

By Sue

In 2004, at age 71, I purchased and moved into a one bedroom (599 square foot) condo in the over-55 Issaquah (WA) community known as Providence Point. I had retired from full-time employment in 1996, yet needed to continue to be employed part-time in order to support my living expenses.  This condo had two pulls for me: a view over neighboring rooftops to the mountains and sky beyond, and a very large garage underneath, probably more square footage than the condo itself.

Into this garage, all of my worldly possessions, beyond those needed for my upstairs daily living, were moved in in boxes. Fully intending to spend significant time going through all those boxes and distributing their contents in meaningful ways: through relatives, donations, antique sales, and such, the years moved forward without much of that being accomplished. There never was enough space available in the garage to park, even my new car in 2012!

Recognizing my eventual need for low income Senior Housing, several years ago I became OLOC’s representative to an area-wide organization being formed called the Northwest LGBT Senior Care Providers Network. These folks shared information about the variety of housing possibilities that exist in this area for seniors. Then I joined the OLOC Housing Committee when it formed.

However, I didn’t really become totally activated until the spring of 2014, when one of my nieces offered to pay for any help I might need to prepare for my move to senior housing! All of a sudden, at 80 years of age I had a condo that had to be prepared for sale, to find and choose senior housing I was interested in for myself and to get on their waiting list, and to get rid of the contents of that that big garage! Setting daily priorities became my way of life.

I had learned that both SHAG and HUD offered affordable senior housing for independent living. I began by visiting SHAG facilities in neighborhoods where I would feel safe living: Arrowhead Gardens in West Seattle, a highrise building at 130th near Aurora, and finally a facility in Edmonds. It was at the last facility that I found out how SHAG operates, and determined that SHAG was not for me!

When you meet SHAG’s income requirements, they will offer you either a six month or a one year lease, your choice. At the end of that first lease, you then go on a month-to-month lease basis. When I inquired as to how their periodic increases work, the SHAG facilities manager told me that she had seen both 3% and 11% increases to date. As I projected ahead in my thoughts consideration of the possibility of a long lifetime and market increases as large as she cited, and perhaps more, I was afraid of the possibility of running out of funds needed to support myself for the rest of my life!

So then I turned to a HUD supported facility that I had heard of through “the grapevine”, Northaven in the Northgate neighborhood of Seattle.

Having made a telephone appointment with the Housing Coordinator ahead of time, my first visit was friendly, and I brought with me the financial papers needed to determine my eligibility to live there. She told me that there existed a waiting list for all apartments: a 6 to 8 month waiting list for a studio apartment, and a 2 to 3 year waiting list for a one bedroom apartment.

The Housing Coordinator was open about all of the information, answering all my questions. One of the residents, a former teacher, showed me around the facility and introduced me to other residents as we explored the grounds and public rooms. Then we visited her studio apartment and ended up having a lengthy conversation there.

I asked her if there were any gay folks living there, and she thought there were, although she was uncertain. However, that topic brought up a conversation about her only grandchild who was in process of transitioning from female to male as a teenager. We bonded easily!

I decided to put my application in at Northaven and asked to be put on both waiting lists. My thinking was that once on a list, one could always turn down an opening. There was no penalty for doing so. Now, having a place in mind to move to, my focus became two fold: lining up the help needed to put the condo in mint condition ready to sell, and getting personal assistance for myself in the process of going through EVERYTHING in the condo and garage. Thus the really hard work began!

I was informed by Northaven of a studio apartment’s availability on the 9th floor six and a half months later, and took occupancy on January 1, 2016. I decided to set up the Northaven apartment to sleep there as soon as possible, in order to put the condo on the real estate market and provide maximum accessibility to potential buyers.  Everything left in the condo except the queen size bed, sofa and dining room set were moved to the garage. Once the painting, new carpet and new appliances were installed, the realtor arranged for the condo to be “staged”, and all of the remaining work for me and my helper was done in and out of the garage.

Potential buyers made offers, and I responded with counter offers over several weeks. The condo was finally sold and the real estate closing occurred on May 15, 2016.