Chicago-based housing organization recognized nationally for intergenerational housing initiatives


Photo courtesy of Gail Schechter

H.O.M.E. senior residents, a Housing Support Specialist and a facilitator of a creative writing workshop gathered at the Nathalie Salmon House. Intergenerational connections are a valuable part of H.O.M.E.’s mission.

Kimberly Espinosa, Assistant Audience Engagement Editor

Chicago organization Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly is planning to fund an intergenerational building with about 70 units on the South Side of Chicago, in partnership with another local social services group. Its aim is to provide housing for 44 seniors, 6 resident assistants and 21 grandfamilies.

H.O.M.E.’s mission is to develop intergenerational housing across Chicago in order to uplift interactions across generations and ensure elders maintain their independence.

“With intergenerational housing that H.O.M.E. provides, it’s a way to age in community and still be surrounded by a whole diversity of people,” H.O.M.E. Executive Director Gail Schechter said.

In December, H.O.M.E. received a national certification recognizing its effectiveness as an intergenerational program from Generations United, a national nonprofit aiming to foster intergenerational advocacy, collaboration and programming.

H.O.M.E. was among 11 organizations designated a Program of Distinction after undergoing a monthslong evaluation process, and it was the only organization in the Midwest to receive this status.

Danica Derriennic, special programs coordinator at Generations United, said the organization selected H.O.M.E. as a Program of Distinction because it specifically aimed to enhance the quality of support for Chicago’s low-income senior population.

“What makes intergenerational different from multigenerational is intentionality,” Derriennic said. “H.O.M.E. was designed with the express purpose of bringing generations together. It’s not just apartment buildings that happen to have older and younger people together.”

Now that H.O.M.E. has received the Program of Distinction designation, it is eligible for benefits including national recognition, participation and acknowledgement in virtual showcases and a letter of support from Generations United.

Schechter said communities should move past senior-only housing. While some may prefer this housing lifestyle, having it as the only option may limit the possibility to age in an environment that provides social connection, she said.

“The Program of Distinction certifies that H.O.M.E. is a model,” Derriennic said. “Our hope with recognizing H.O.M.E. like this is that other organizations or other people who are interested in doing similar work in their city would look to them as an example.”

The organization currently has three residences that provide community members intergenerational housing, two of which are also Good Life Senior Residences, which offer special amenities like private rooms, meals, health checkups, social activities and transportation.

Lia Crawford, whose family has lived in Evanston for generations, is a housing assistant and outreach liaison for residents in the Nathalie Salmon House, one of H.O.M.E.’s Good Life Senior Residences in Rogers Park.

She started working with H.O.M.E. as a resident assistant last March, when she was looking to leave her former job, she said. Crawford was looking for a job that would be more fulfilling and decided to pack her things when she learned she would need to live on-site.

“Connecting with elders has its own rewards,” Crawford said. “Being able to offer different resources and advice from my generation and being able to exchange with them too. We both have things to offer to each other.”

Crawford also said H.O.M.E. facilitates group activities like bingo games and other events during the holidays to help avoid people feeling isolated. She added residents are able to share perspectives on topics like parenting.

Derriennic said H.O.M.E.’s project represents Generations United’s vision to provide intergenerational opportunities to local communities.

“In a dream world … there would be programs like H.O.M.E. in every American city,” she said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the abbreviation for the Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly and incorrectly identified individuals in the image. The Daily regrets the error.

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