The Washtenaw County Elder Justice Coalition is a group of health and social service practitioners and community members working to acknowledge and prevent elder abuse in Washtenaw County through awareness, education, advocacy, and enhanced partnerships.
Recently we spoke with Susan Atkins of the Housing Bureau for Seniors. The Housing Bureau for Seniors (HBS) provides guidance and resources related to sustainable housing for older adults throughout Washtenaw County. In this interview, Susan discusses various HBS programs, organizations they work closely with, and enthusiastically reminds you, the reader, to reach out if you or a loved one needs help.
Ahead of the Curve: If you had to give an “elevator speech” about what your organization does, how would you describe it?
SA: I think our mission statement sums it up well. Our mission statement is “Recognizing that stable housing is imperative to physical and mental well-being, the Housing Bureau for Seniors informs and empowers older adults and those who care about them with guidance and resources regarding sustainable housing in Washtenaw County and beyond.” But more specifically, the services we offer include housing counseling, HomeShare, eviction prevention, and foreclosure prevention.
AoTC: What happens when you get a phone call/referral?
SA: In my role as the Intake & Resource Coordinator, I’m the initial point of contact for all HBS clients. I complete initial intakes with clients either by phone or face-to-face and then I triage out referrals appropriately depending on the need. There are coordinators for each of our programs, but many times I’m able to assist the client during the initial point of contact.it may be something simple like they need housing guides or resources.
AoTC: What organizations do you work closely with?
SA: We work closely with Legal Services of South Central Michigan, Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County, Adult Protective Services, Turner Geriatrics, Meals on Wheels, the Hoarding Task Force of Washtenaw County, the Office of Community and Economic Development, and the Washtenaw County Treasurer’s office, specifically for the Foreclosure Prevention Program.
AoTC: It’s nice that Turner Geriatrics and Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels are so close to you. You’re practically in the same building.
SA: I know, it’s great! They refer clients to us; we refer clients to them. So yes, it’s a nice system that we have in place.
AoTC: What are some things you wish the public knew about your role?
SA: Rather than my role specifically, I’d like the community to know more about our organization as a whole. I think a lot of older adults don’t know what resources are available to help them age in place and with dignity. Our organization is small, we’re still trying to get our name out. HBS provides many great services and our goal is to help as many older adults as possible within and outside Washtenaw County.
AoTC: What tips do you have for someone with a loved one that needs assistance?
SA: I think the number one tip I’d share is that there IS help out there and no one should have to go through this sometimes-difficult process alone. So, I would encourage people to make those phone calls and ask for help. We at HBS are experts in our particular area and want to share our resources with others and help out however we can!
AoTC: Is there anything you would like to add?
SA: HBS is a department under Michigan Medicine- Community Health Services. The vision of CHS is that by 2025 our communities will have access to high-quality, innovative, equitable, and responsive services that support comprehensive health and well-being. Also, please continue to send us referrals and notify your clients of our services!
Thank you to Susan Atkins for sharing information about the Housing Bureau for Seniors. If you want to learn more about HBS and their programs, you can visit their website or call the office at (734) 998-9339.