HUD grant to help build housing for low-income Wichita seniors

11/28/2011 12:00 AM

11/27/2011 10:08 PM

The Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas plans to use $3.4 million in federal funds to build 24 apartments for low-income seniors and provide rent subsidies.

The association was the only Kansas agency to receive part of $749 million in grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The grants, a news release from HUD said, will help nonprofit groups provide accessible housing, rent assistance and support services for seniors and people with disabilities. The money will be used to build or rehabilitate more than 189 housing developments in 41 states, to serve 4,800 elderly and disabled people, HUD said.

The Mental Health Association will use just more than $3.1 million to help build the second phase of an apartment complex near 31st South and Broadway. It also will use about $277,000 to provide utility subsidies for three years.

The apartment complex, called the Gardens at Wichita Place, will have private garden entrances and be a single level. A part-time coordinator will help seniors access services, and the complex will have a clubhouse.

The complex will serve people 62 and older whose annual income is less than $32,000. While the Mental Health Association is building the apartments, seniors don’t have to be clients of mental health services to qualify for housing.

“This is our eighth project that we’ve done here in Wichita,” said Michael Kress, director of residential care for the association. “This will be our third senior complex that we’ve done.”

Kress said the complex will be designed to have “more of a townhome-type feel.”

The apartments will fill a need for low-income seniors who want to remain independent in their own homes, Kress said.

The association broke ground on the first phase of the project, which is three blocks west of Broadway and a block south of 31st Street South, in August.

The association always has a waiting list of seniors who need housing, Kress said. The association, which works with seniors in addition to people with mental illnesses, opened its first complex for seniors in 1997 and its second in 2009.

Kress said he is excited about the association getting the grant.

“It’s a competitive application process with HUD,” he said.

Kathy Hannemann, director of the senior companion department at the association, said that program will operate at the complex, drawing on volunteers to provide services such as transportation to appointments, light housekeeping and meal preparation.

“The whole purpose of our program is to help people remain independent as long as possible,” Hannemann said.

The program works with seniors in their homes, in public housing, at assisted-living centers and most recently, at hospitals.

Don Strong, director of the Mid-Kansas Senior Outreach and Triad Council, two programs of the association that provide services to seniors, said there are 30,000 seniors in Sedgwick County who live by themselves.

Seniors often feel isolated, he said. That isolation can lead to depression and other mental illnesses that also affect physical health, he said.

Strong said it was “tremendous” that the association received the grant.

Low-income housing is often located in areas that are not safe for seniors, he said.

He said the complex will be a “beautiful, well-managed” facility that also will be safe for seniors.

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