Affordable housing: Our mission, our ministry

These stories from our residents and others included in our cover story about the potential devastating cuts to communities funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) illustrate the challenges seniors face when they try to find housing they can afford as their incomes decline and their need for services increases. Our organization was born 100 years ago when we answered the call to provide a safe haven for five elders. We were established with that purpose and we expanded our mission more than 30 years ago when we added HUD housing as part of our ministry. We now offer safe, affordable housing to 2,700 residents in 60 communities. As the number of people 65 and older increases nationwide and the need for affordable housing for older adults rises, United Church Homes, a national nonprofit, faith-based senior living provider, will be ready to answer the call again.

UCH staff, two board members, and I went to Washington, D.C., recently and made our case before about a dozen congressional offices, asking leaders for additional funding for HUD senior housing programs, particularly for new construction. These visits on Capitol Hill are critical because Congress is considering steep cuts to domestic programs, including a proposed 14 percent reduction to HUD. Housing managers in our communities in 14 states and two Native American nations have been asked to do the same. We don’t want older adults and people with disabilities living in substandard housing or in cars because they can’t afford a safe place to stay. The private sector alone won’t attempt to meet that need. Only the government can provide the funding and other resources necessary to ensure older adults have housing they can afford and the safety nets they need as their health and incomes decline. United Church Homes’ housing program is an antipoverty program and we do it out of a sense of mission. With the help of our donors, we have some charitable resources to renovate our communities as they age and provide financial support to our residents who cannot afford housing, but not enough to meet the growing demand.

Housing seniors, the homeless, and people in need is our ministry. As the Bible says in Matthew 25:36: I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me. We take this as our mandate to minister to communities and to impoverished communities. Homelessness and unsafe and unsanitary housing threaten the lives of people who are disproportionately affected by our economy. We address social inequality by doing our part to create communities and community living for people who otherwise would be at risk if left on their own.