Partnering with the Community
Delicate Dance with a Housing Partner
The Crestmoor Downs housing partner provides significant funding for the NORC program, markets its services as a leasing benefit, and draws on the program as a source of support for senior residents.
Despite all that, not everyone associated with the housing entity has always viewed the program as an unalloyed blessing.
Initially, the leasing office seemed to turn its back on the NORC program. When Crestmoor Downs took on a new staff person to market the apartment complex, she complained to the owner that senior programs were “too visible.” Young people touring the facility did not want to see so many older people gather together, she said.
Seniors were told they could not hold yoga classes in the party room of the complex. They were asked not to post activity announcements in the elevator.
Aware of the need to respect the concerns of the housing partner, NORC program participants complied. “You can’t go in with your own agenda,” said Cathy Grimm of Jewish Family Service. “It is about compromising. If you are bringing in partners, you have to consider what they need in order to buy in.”
At the same time, staff set about winning them over. “We remind them that seniors are typically responsible tenants,” said Alison Joucovsky, program coordinator of the Crestmoor Downs NORC program. “And we encourage them to see this as a great marketing tool for anyone over the age of 60.”
Joucovsky has also cultivated a close relationship with the building managers. “I’m in and out of the buildings all the time and we have built a rapport,” she says. “They feel comfortable calling me. If there is a problem with someone in Apartment 201, they know I will help to take care of it.”
All of that seems to be working. The leasing office eventually began showing potential senior residents the setting of NORC program activities, asked for more of its newsletters to distribute, and now alerts Ms. Jacouvsky when an older adult moves in. “They have finally realized this is a good thing,” said Ms. Jacouvsky. “Part of that is just the process – it takes time and becoming used to seeing us around.”
When Crestmoor Downs was sold in 2007 to an Atlanta-based corporation that manages apartment complexes around the country, NORC program staff wondered whether the program had a future. So far, at least, things look good. The new owners, who have not previously owned real estate that is home to so many senior residents, have recognized the benefits of working with people who know the community, and have given NORC program staff a real office for the first time, complete with telephone lines and wireless access.
“We’re beginning to educate them about our mission,” says Ms. Grimm. “Eventually, we’ll come to them for financial support, but right now our goal is just to prove they want to keep us here.” Continued...