Helping America's most vulnerable.

Save the Safe House: Housing for Abused and Neglected Seniors Faces Closure Unless $200,000 Raised by Feb.14th

A teacher, a nurse, an entrepreneur, a professor. An ice skater, boxer, veteran, horse trainer, ship builder/gold prospector/writer. A mother, a father, a grandparent. These are just a few of the people who at one time lead successful lives, but years later found themselves hungry, abused, homeless, bankrupt, exploited, or neglected and seeking refuge in the Senior Safe House. And unless Volunteers of America’s Safe House, which has helped nearly 300 seniors in it’s 4 years of existence, raises $200,000 by February 14th, desperate seniors will have no place to go but the streets, a motel, or back to an unsafe environment.

“People never imagined they’d end up here” said Nicole Elton, VOA Marketing and Communications Officer. “[They were] strong, self-sufficient people and it would never occur to them that somebody would hurt or take advantage of them…It’s a very painful realization.”

Most seniors experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation from caretakers and, sadly, most commonly from family.Some live in homeless shelters prior to coming to the Safe House, while others are victims of tragedy or their inability to care for themselves. Many are referred to the home by Adult Protective Services, Veterans Affairs, or hospitals.

“Senior neglect and senior abuse is not necessarily easy to see,” Elton pointed out, “but it’s shockingly rampant. Sacramento county has more than 4000 elderly abuse reports a year.”

Their stories are tragic, but when circumstances render them helpless the Senior Safe House gives them what no one else can: short-term housing, food, care, and, most importantly, safety, friendship, and dignity–something many of them haven’t had for years.

The primarily volunteer-operated program shelters seniors until it can secure affordable housing, an independent living situation, or placement in a facility with support and counseling. Because the need is so great and the Safe House can only house six seniors at a time, the goal is to rectify their situation within 30 days.

“I can’t count how many times a senior told me that this place has changed their life and filled them with hope,” Heather Harris, a volunteer for the Safe House, said. “The heart of this program is the community coming together to care for these seniors, whether it’s simply being a listening ear or helping them put a puzzle together or talking about happier times.”

But the donation-based Safe House is hurting financially due to an unexpected loss of funding and will need to shut their doors to endangered seniors if funds are not raised.

“I wish a millionaire would step up to support us,” said Juanita Daniel, Program Director for the Senior Safe House, “but it is my belief that a million people with $1 can come to the same end.”

Volunteers Of America and the Senior Safe House are asking the community to keep this important program alive. According to Daniel, they are one of only a few in the nation and there is no other program like it west of the Mississippi. But a problem with the program, she believes, is that it’s a “too well kept secret.”

“People don’t know we’re here” Daniel said. “If they know the really good work we do, they’ll want to help us.”

Just a 5-minute conversation with Daniel shows how much she has both touched and been touched by the lives of the seniors who have come through the home. She spoke of Maureen [pictured], a woman born in Africa of English and Irish descent who had a fiery personality and kept everyone entertained. But she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and came to the Safe House after losing her home and family through some unfortunate circumstances. Daniel quoted Maureen as saying “‘Safe’ is not a word you can fully understand until you’re here…It’s the only place I’ve ever found it.” Maureen died of cancer some time after arriving at the Safe House. But she loved it there, Daniel said.

Daniel’s plea to the community is to give whatever you can, no matter how small, and to spread the word.

“I believe that a straw leads you to a brick…the straw may be weak but the brick is solid,” Daniel said. To give donations, visit Volunteer of America’s website at http://www.voa-ncnn.org/. Donations may also be mailed or hand-delivered to Volunteers of America, 3434 Marconi Ave., Sacramento, CA 95821. If $200,000 is not raised by February 14th, all donations will be refunded.

If you’re not able to give, please at least spread the word. Share this on Facebook, Twitter, or in conversations with friends. Volunteers are also needed at the Safe House. Visit VOA’s website to inquire.