The D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development will receive more than $100,000 in federal housing funds to launch an experimental program to feed and care for elderly residents of public housing who are too sick or too senile to care for themselves.
The experiment, which will serve 60 residents of the city's Garfield Terrace project, is one of 38 across the country that will be funded under a new $10 million, three-year Congregate Housing Services Program.
Under the pilot program, about one-fourth of Garfield Terrace's 247 residents will receive two hot meals a day, served in a group dining room or brought to their rooms; door-to-door transportation for shopping and doctor visits; check cashing services and housekeepers to clean their apartments.
Many of these services currently are available to them but are scattered throughout municipal agencies with no coordination, according to city housing officials.
"We have a hot foods program now but it's only available during the week," said James Clay, the city's deputy housing director, citing one of the problems the new program is designed to remedy.
In addition, a social worker will be hired "to draw together these scattered services and coordinate them with the needs the people have," he said.
Congress forced a reluctant U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department to create the program because public housing agencies nationwide are faced with growing numbers of helpless aged residents who cannot get into nursing homes because of long waiting lists but who can no longer live alone safely.
Garfield Terrace, one of the city's 15 public housing projects for the elderly, is typical. One-third of its tenants are confined to bed or are so handicapped that it is "difficult or impossible for them to live independently without support," according to a recent city housing department survey.
Of the 3,000 elderly and disabled tenants who live in public housing in the city, 2 percent are bedridden, 6 percent are too frail to leave their apartments and another 6 percent need help to move about.
HUD officials had argued that they should be required to provide housing only, not social services, to these residents. HUD is the landlord for more than 1.3 million elderly persons, about 10 percent of whom cannot care for themselves without assistance.