Anne Osmer Reporting
The Housing Bureau for Seniors in Ann Arbor offers help to seniors in Washtenaw County seeking answers to housing questions. Started 25 years ago by the University of Michigan Health System, the purpose of the program is to assist older adults in finding and staying in decent, affordable living situations.
The housing agency has four areas of focus: elderly eviction prevention, home and tax foreclosure prevention, helping seniors stay in their homes through special programs, and housing counseling which helps older people assess their housing options.
“We work with people along a number of dimensions so that they can obtain the housing or care that they need or want,” said Justine Bykowski, who has worked at the agency for six years.
Bykowski runs the housing counseling program, which helps people who need long-term care assess their needs and supports. Bykowski looks at a person’s financial situation, health considerations, emotional needs, and additional factors and helps families evaluate potential living arrangements. If a person can remain in the home, which is often the preferred option, Bykowski will help the person determine how to continue living in it safely and comfortably.
“The consumer has to decipher what is the best tool for them. We give people decision-making tools,” said Bykowski. “The gold standard is their needs, and how places compare with those needs.”
One innovative program the agency offers to help seniors stay in their homes is HomeShare. HomeShare is for people 55 and over who are interested in providing a room in their home to another adult, who in exchange pays rent or provides practical assistance to the homeowner. Housing Bureau for Seniors helps screen the homeowners and potential renters, and provides advice on how to work out a living exchange agreement. The benefits of home sharing are mutual: The homeowner enjoys an income stream or help around the property, and the renter gets affordable living space in a home. Renters are often graduate students or professionals new to the area.
For more information about the Housing Bureau for Seniors, visit http://www.med.umich.edu/seniors/index.htm or call (734)998-9339.
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