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Beacon Senior News

Home sweet, affordable home: Housing Authority caters to independent seniors

May 16, 2019 09:52AM ● By Jan Weeks

For some seniors, affordable housing is out of reach. However, the Grand Junction Housing Authority (GJHA) is prepared to help.

It was formed in 1973 for the primary purpose of creating affordable rentals for low-income people over the age of 18, according to chief operating officer Scott Aker. Since then, four properties for low-income people over 62 have come into existence, two of which are also available to younger people with disabilities.

Ratekin Towers, 875 Main St., caters to both seniors and disabled folks. Services Coordinator Brenda Bachmeier loves interacting with tenants, helping them find resources for everything from finding home care providers and connecting them with elderly services through Grand Junction’s 211 information line.

Nancy Langston has lived at Ratekin Towers for a year and said, “On the whole, I like it. The first two people I met are now two of my best friends. I like the community feeling. Any time I need help I know I can call on staff and friends.”

Julia Knight also likes living at Ratekin Towers and has for almost two years. She also feels a sense of community, and not just toward other tenants but toward employees, too.

“We do what we can to help the maintenance man,” she said.

The Highlands, located at 805 Bookcliff Ave., is the newest addition to GJHA’s properties. The original building has 64 units that opened in May 2017, and 72 more become available in May 2019. Each floor has a TV lounge and a small kitchen area with sink and microwave where residents can gather and even host birthday parties and other get-togethers.

Each floor has a laundry room and an exercise room, and The Art Center sometimes holds classes in the arts and crafts room. The Highlands is a comfortable, safe environment, Aker stressed. “It’s barrier-free living.”

At The Highlands, the housing authority pays water, sewer and trash, but tenants pay for electricity, cable TV and internet. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a federal program, provides housing allowances to some and the rent is adjusted to compensate for that.

Walnut Park has housed both seniors and disabled folks for decades. Instead of high-rise buildings, apartments cluster in groups of four across a large campus at 2236 N. 17th St. Each unit has a patio and ADA (Americans with Disabilities) access.

Pets are allowed, which is good for Brandy Eisenbrei as she pedals her adult tricycle around campus accompanied by her dog, Jaime, secure in the basket on the back.

Eisenbrei, 36, has lived at Walnut Park for eight years.

“I had a traumatic brain injury at age 22,” she explained.

In spite of surgery she was completely paralyzed. She had to learn to speak, eat and other normal functions all over again.

She says the best part is the Wednesday morning coffee and chat in the clubhouse.

Nellie Bechtel apartments, 3032 N. 15th St., were acquired by the housing authority only two and a half years ago. According to Aker, the units are now undergoing renovations with upgraded appliances, flooring and more. The boilers and insulation are also being modernized.

Each apartment contains a kitchen and can be either one or two bedrooms. Residents at all four locations must be able to care for themselves independently, and manage their own risks.

“These are not assisted living places,” he said. “We try for a balance in independent living. We also strive for an atmosphere of accountability and responsibility at all our properties.”

For Aker, the most rewarding part of his job is seeing people happy.

“There is a lot of need and we will never meet all of them, but we help people make the most of limited resources,” he said.

To apply for housing, contact the Grand Junction Housing Authority at 245-0388 or apply online at www.gjha.org/apply-now.aspx or in person at 8 North Foresight Circle, Grand Junction between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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