We asked General Operating Support Grant Recipient, Federation Housing, to answer a few questions about their organization. Shoshana Bannett, Director of Real Estate Development had these responses to share:
Describe your basic operations:
Federation Housing has three main focuses of its operations: property management, supportive services and programming, and real estate development. As a property management company, we address building maintenance, collect rent and manage the budgets of each building, and oversee compliance to ensure our residents are age- and income-qualified in keeping with both our mission and our funders’ requirements.
The supportive services and programming is overseen by our Social Services Manager and Director of Operations. This includes case management, meal programming, transportation services, chaplaincy and a reimbursement program for residents who encounter unforeseen medical or other life expenses and require financial assistance. We also seek out partnerships and programs that benefit resident overall wellbeing – intergenerational programming, meal programs, and other one-time and recurring events and opportunities for residents. All of these programs are offered to our residents free of charge or at a significantly reduced cost.
The last arm of Federation Housing’s operations is developing new properties and expanding our reach. We have thousands of people on our waiting lists and the need for affordable, safe, high-quality housing only continues to grow. So are always on the lookout for opportunities in the greater Philadelphia region to build new buildings.
Describe your client demographic:
Our residents come from all walks of life, but there are certainly some trends that we see across the nearly 1,500 residents who reside in Federation Housing properties. We serve seniors 62 years and older, though the average age is 79 – many residents will move in when they are closer to 62 and will age in place, with most residents remaining at Federation Housing buildings for the rest of their lives. Approximately 30% of our residents are “super seniors” (age 80 and older), who tend to face more health and physical challenges. There is a 30/70 split between men and women.. All of our units are for low-income seniors, and the average annual income is $14,797 or just over $1,200 a month.
Please share any data you might have about the needs this year versus the previous year(s) and/or impact data from last year.
The biggest needs we have seen year after year have been transportation and meal programming. Many residents move in without a personal vehicle, and many others choose to stop driving when they move in either for financial reasons, or because the transportation provided through our van service is sufficient for their travel needs.
Food insecurity is another major challenge for our senior population and follows nationwide trends. We never want our residents to have to make the impossible decision to forego food in order to pay for medical expenses, rent or other costs, so we have developed a meal program across all our buildings, which is supported by philanthropic efforts, and allows residents to have either hot meals or to-go cold meals on a regular basis at each building. Residents are asked to pay $1 for their meals, as we would see significant food waste when the program was free. However, if the $1 fee prevents residents from participating, we work with residents to ensure they can participate and do not go hungry.
As we have come out of the most challenging years of the Covid pandemic, we have seen participation in our meal and transportation programming return to pre-Covid levels with over 20,000 meals served in both FY22 and FY23, and 1,000 rides provided in FY22 and over 1,500 provided in FY23.
One last ongoing need I might add is the need for additional housing units. We maintain waiting lists at each of our buildings that number in the hundreds. We often have to close these waiting lists because the wait can be three to five years long, and we do not want to give false hope to those far down on the list. There are many challenges to developing new affordable units – NIMBYism and general perceptions about “affordable housing” that threaten zoning applications and funding, the rising interest rates and construction costs that create gaps in funding.
While the environment for addressing this housing need is difficult, Federation Housing successfully developed Annabel Gardens, a new 54 unit project in Willow Grove, Montgomery County in FY22 and is on track to start construction on a new 60 unit development in Bensalem Township, Bucks County in FY24, with a pipeline of additional projects seeking zoning approvals and financing now. These exciting projects do provide life changing opportunities for low-income seniors, but also highlight the struggle to match supply to demand. Annabel Gardens, which opened in November 2022, was fully leased within seventy days and has over 500 people on the waiting list today.
What are your organization’s and/or your clients’ most pressing needs?
While the previous question’s answers explain some of the ongoing needs of residents and our organization, a growing challenge that we are seeing among residents, particularly as we are coming out of the isolating years of the pandemic, is a need for (and often a corresponding lack of) high-quality and available mental health resources. Aging, and often without family or other support systems in place, we see residents struggle with loneliness and other impacts of isolation or decreased socialization. We have been strengthening relationships with the crisis response teams in Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia counties and working to incorporate de-escalation strategies into our work with residents struggling with a mental health issue to address their wellbeing in a holistic and thoughtful manner and also maintain a safe and secure housing environment for all our residents.
Understanding that the grant was “general operating support”, is there a specific area that the funding will enhance?
In reviewing our budget for this fiscal year, we have applied the generous contribution from the Sarah Ralston Foundation to our meal program. This is a major expense for Federation Housing annually, and is supported through a variety of grants from foundations and other philanthropic contributions in our community. We have seen the growing need for our meal program year over year, and decreases in some of our funding commitments for this service.
Do you have a story you can share about a client?
We circulate surveys and ask for feedback from residents on a regular basis. Here are some comments we’ve received in the last year:
Ephraim Goldstein Apartments, Northeast Philadelphia
- “Having a hot meal with friends is a light in the monotony of everyday life”- Karen C., resident since 2019
- “Love the programs and everything about this place. I am blessed.”- Ellen B.
Sidewater House, Northeast Philadelphia
- “We like to be among people, to communicate. We feel good here”- Yevgenia & Val G., residents since 2015
- “Thank you for the service, everyone is so nice and friendly, making us feel not so isolated.”- Zhanna P., resident since 2019
Samuel A. Green House, Elkins Park
- This (meal) program is so valuable. Not only does it save cooking and clean-up but it saves money. Especially during health care crises, these meals are even more appreciated”- Stephanie P., resident since 2022
We also got some feedback when we opened our newest development, Annabel Gardens in Willow Grove in late 2022:
- “You have given me a home when I had no place to go. You have given me the ability to maintain my independence, gain new friendships, while enjoying group activities and socialization” – Pam S., resident since 2022
- “This is my heaven on earth. I feel like a queen and this little old lady has a new lease on life at age of 87” – Joan V., resident since 2022
- I now have a beautiful home, a place to forge friendships, keep active and feel secure for the years ahead” – Valerie C., resident since 2022