Supporting The Senior Center
The seniors of Desert Hot Springs are near and dear to my heart. I am very concerned about their financial well-being and their mental and physical health. According to a Market Watch publication in May of 2020, millions more seniors are likely to fall into poverty because of COVID 19. Workers are approaching retirement with much less wealth than generations before. The unemployment rate for Americans aged 55 and older quadrupled in April of 2020 to 13.6%. Based on past recoveries, according to Market Watch, employers will opt for younger, cheaper and more nimble workers over older folks who are perceived (often incorrectly) as not being up on the latest skills and technologies. Thus the jobless rate for older workers will remain higher, and for longer.
Low income and poverty are not the only problems many of our seniors face. According to naviHealth in their article of December 2019, the biggest challenges that seniors will face in 2020 are:
Physician shortage: A growing senior population with increasing care needs requires a physician surge, but data suggests a shortage instead. Per the Association of American Medical Colleges, a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians is expected by 2032, right around the time when seniors officially outnumber children.
The cost of care: Nursing home and assisted living care is expensive and often not first choice of care delivery, but home health care is equally costly — and not generally covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
Economic disparities: Some older adults willingly work well into their 80s. Others, however, are forced to work longer into the retirement years because of financial pressures. This cost burden is often unplanned. Senior hunger and poverty are huge challenges in today’s world: a 2017 report from Feeding America suggests that 5.5 million seniors don’t have access to enough nutritious foods, a number that has more than doubled since 2001 and will likely continue its upwards trend with the current senior population surge.
Social concerns: According to NaviHealth, every day there is more data on the grief, loneliness, and isolation of seniors and the accompanying health risks — both physical and emotional. A steady (and in some areas, sharp) increase in the rates of suicide, divorce, substance abuse, and mental health concerns among the senior population underscores just how hard these aforementioned challenges hit home. With more seniors worrying about where their next meal will come from and where they will live if they outlive their savings, the rise in rates of depression, grief, and loneliness is perhaps not surprising.
Fortunately, we have an outstanding Senior Center with dedicated and compassionate staff, many of whom are volunteers. The Desert Hot Springs Senior Center is located at 11-777 West Drive, behind the Carl May Community Center and Library. Founded on July 13, 1979, the Senior Center has been operated by Mizell Senior Center under contract with the City of DHS since March 2017. It is a place where senior citizens can receive a very wide variety of services and resources.
Our senior center provides a home-away-from-home for up to 78 seniors per day, and it benefits more than 228 active members. Our senior center is so popular that it attracts seniors from other cities! The senior center helps residents deal with loneliness. It provides daily feeding, and it provides numerous classes and speakers on subjects of practical importance to seniors. The center also coordinates blood pressure and dental screenings, and partners with Jewish Family Services, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and other organizations to help seniors with financial difficulties. The Center’s main goal is “to make seniors not feel like seniors”, according to its Director, Melanie Lyons, who also says that their daily continental breakfast is the “big draw”.
But our Senior Center knows that it can do more for the seniors of DHS, especially if it had additional funding and more staffing, volunteer or otherwise. And I will help them with that.
One of the biggest reasons why more of our citizens can’t use the services of the Senior Center is lack of transportation. They simply can’t get there, which means that they miss out on vital services and lose their opportunity to learn, to enjoy companionship and friendship, and eat a healthy meal.
Although the Senior Center receives enough funding to provide core services, and they do a great job with the resources they currently have, there are not enough funds or staff members to expand their feeding services, provide more exercise and life skills classes, or field trips. And most significantly, there are not enough funds to provide direct housing assistance.
As a Desert Hot Springs City Council Member, I will make seniors and our senior center one of my top priorities. I will seek additional funding and other resources for our senior center. I will work with our local schools to increase student involvement with seniors through volunteerism. Because our seniors have the wisdom gained through life experiences, I will encourage our senior center to set-up tutoring and mentoring opportunities whereby our local students develop relationships with our seniors, allowing them to learn from seniors, as well as teach seniors in the use of technology, for instance. Sometimes all it takes is a senior reading to a child to make a difference. And, I will especially work with the City and our Senior Center to secure at least one van and driver that can be used to pick up seniors at their homes, allow them to spend the day at the Senior Center, and then be returned home.
Police Bike Patrols
Desert Hot Springs is very fortunate to have a state-of-the-art Police Department that protects us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Chief Henson oversees a trusted and highly professional group of men and women who provide high visibility preventive patrol, enforcement of local, state and federal laws and ordinances, traffic enforcement, traffic collision investigation, and non-critical requests for service. They always come when we call.
When I speak with local business owners they routinely praise our police department, but they also say that they would appreciate our officers being even more visible. I personally would like to see at least two uniformed officers patrolling our downtown business district on bicycles.
According to the International Police Mountain Bike Association, there are ten advantages to Police bicycle patrols:
- Bikes are less threatening than patrol vehicles.
- Other bicyclists are more accepting of bike patrol officers.
- Bicycle patrols result in more than twice as many contacts with the public as vehicle patrols.
- Bicycle police/security uniforms help officers to quickly transition from their traditional law enforcement duties to ore service-oriented work.
- Perpetrators don’t notice bike patrols.
- Bike patrols can go where traditional patrol vehicles can’t.
- Bicycle officers can use all of their senses to deject illegal activity.
- Cycles have other uses and cost less to purchase and maintain than traditional patrol cars.
- Bikes provide environmental and health benefits.
I believe that officers on bikes would benefit our City by serving as a deterrent to crime. I also believe that officers on bikes can bring an increased feeling of security and can develop stronger relationships with business owners and citizens alike because of their accessibility and more casual demeanor. These officers would be more amongst the people, more engaged with individuals. As your City Council Member, I will work closely with Chief Hanson and our City government to make sure that our police department is adequately staffed and funded, and our officers are as visible and fully engaged with our citizens as possible.
First Time Home Buyer Programs
Homeownership helps build personal wealth. High homeownership rates, along with increased personal wealth, attract new businesses. Unfortunately, homeownership in Desert Hot Springs is much less than 50%, which is lower than the national average. This means that the majority of residents are renters, unable to benefit from the increase in the value of their homes over time. In other words, their landlords enjoy the financial benefits of homeownership and rising home values, but not the tenants themselves. Tenants cannot build equity in their homes, they cannot accumulate the wealth that homeownership can provide. Businesses, including “big box stores”, measure the wealth of a community in order to decide when and where to open. We must increase our homeownership rates in order to help strengthen our local economy and increase our personal wealth, and attract new businesses.
As a Realtor, I constantly speak with people who want to become first time home buyers. They are often surprised to hear about the wide range of assistance that exists for them. They begin to see homeownership as more of a reality than a dream.
Mortgage interest rates remain at historically low levels and will remain low for at least another year according to the Federal Reserve. Although COVID 19 has impacted employment, now is an excellent time for many people to buy their first home.
And there is a lot of help out there!
You can learn about Riverside County’s First Time Homebuyer’s Program here.
Riverside County’s First Time Homebuyer’s Program is designed to provide assistance to lower-income persons in the purchase of their first home, including down payment assistance. The amount of assistance available depends upon the buyer’s qualifications and the price of the home. In general, a buyer may only receive what they need, up to 20% of the purchase price of the home. Riverside County’s assistance is valuable because you can attend their free workshops and learn the steps required to purchase a home, including how to qualify for first-time homebuyer benefits and programs. You will also learn how to access various city, county and state programs to cover most of the costs you will be faced with when you purchase your first home. Potential homebuyers are provided with valuable instruction on all important pre-purchase decisions and how to qualify for a home loan.
The State of California also provides substantial assistance for first-time homebuyers. For more than 40 years, the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) has supported the needs of renters and homebuyers by providing financing and programs so more low to moderate-income Californians have a place to call home. Established in 1975, CalHFA was chartered as the state's affordable housing lender. The Agency's Multifamily Division finances affordable rental housing through partnerships with jurisdictions, developers and more, while its Single-Family Division provides first mortgage loans and down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers. CalHFA has loan options for low to moderate-income families, including low to zero interest rate down payment assistance loans. CalHFA does not accept loan applications directly. A CalHFA approved Lender will qualify you for a home loan, so you will need to apply with one of their Preferred Loan Officers or approved Lenders. You’ll also want to look at their income limits and other eligibility criteria. CalHFA can help you with the following programs, in partnership with the Federal Government:
- CalHFA FHA Loan Program — The CalHFA Federal Housing Authority Program is an FHA-insured loan featuring a CalHFA 30 year fixed interest rate first mortgage.
- CalPLUS FHA Program — The CalPLUS FHA program is an FHA-insured first mortgage with a slightly higher 30 year fixed interest rate than our standard FHA program and is combined with the CalHFA Zero Interest Program (ZIP) for closing costs.
- CalHFA VA Loan Program — The CalHFA Veterans Authority program is a VA-insured loan featuring a CalHFA fixed interest rate first mortgage. This loan is a 30-year fixed interest rate first mortgage.
- CalHFA USDA Program — The CalHFA U.S. Department of Agriculture Program is a USDA Guaranteed first mortgage loan program, which can be combined with the MyHome Assistance Program (MyHome). This loan is a 30-year fixed interest rate first mortgage.
And lastly, if you have a bank or credit union account, talk to your bank’s or your credit union’s mortgage loan officer. Most lenders work with first time home buyers and are very familiar with first-time homebuyer programs.
Because low-interest rates mean lower monthly mortgage payments, and considering how much financial assistance for first-time homebuyers exists, now is a time to speak with a mortgage professional. It usually costs you nothing to meet with a lender to see how much you qualify for, so don’t hesitate. And since rates will be low for quite a while, you have time to improve your credit score and start saving some money. But don’t wait too long!
As your City Council Member, I will work with our City’s Economic Development Officer to provide useful and informative workshops for City residents who are interested in buying their first home. And, I will work with the City Government and Homeowners Associations to clean-up our neighborhoods so that homes will increase in value.
Health Care - Urgent Care
I am a cancer survivor. I understand the health care challenges that we face. I understand the frustrations. My experiences have strengthened my belief that all residents of Desert Hot Springs deserve access to timely, high quality, convenient and affordable health care. I also believe that no resident should be forced to forego health care for any reason, and that Desert Hot Springs is fully capable of moving towards becoming an even stronger health and wellness destination than it already is. Unfortunately however, Desert Hot Springs residents do not currently have an adequate number of urgent care providers to meet the needs of our community. This often requires residents to have to travel to Palm Springs or other valley cities for emergency health care, which in some cases can be the difference between life and death. This is particularly an issue for residents without health insurance, who are afraid of the costs associated with visiting a hospital emergency room. It is also a serious issue when the valley experiences heavy rains and roads into Palm Springs are flooded and closed, possibly for several days at a time. As a City Council member, I will work closely with the Desert Health Care District and our City government to not only attract new urgent care services, but also to make available low-cost health screenings for residents, including mammograms, HIV testing, blood pressure testing, diabetes testing, immunizations, and pregnancy testing. I will coordinate city-wide health fairs where residents can walk-in for a wide variety of low or no-cost health screenings. I will also convene a workshop with representatives from our city's Veterans community to discuss health care issues specific to Veterans, with the aim of making Veteran’s health care more convenient and accessible so that they don’t have to drive to Palm Desert or Loma Linda.