Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans, Inc. revitalizes communities by increasing the number of homeowners and transforming vacant or substandard properties into sustainable homeownership. They improve quality of life through informed community development initiatives, leadership development, education, outreach and collaboration.
I cross over the Mississippi River bound for Avondale with Dave Holt, a project manager with Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans.
“We are heading to the Cage’s house, Mr. and Mrs. Cage,” explains Holt. “Sometime in the last year, we remodeled his bathroom because he’s wheelchair bound. So we made his bathroom accessible to him, so it kinda gave him his independence and privacy back.”
Neighborhood Housing Services is part of a national organization which helps revitalize neighborhoods by increasing homeownership. They also build new houses and do project management.
“And then the newest thing we’ve kinda gotten into in the last couple of years is aging in place -- which is modifying or remodeling a home so that you can live there longer, or later in life. It’s a lot less expensive than being in an institution.”
Not to mention the fact that people want to stay in their homes – where they live longer, and with greater physical and mental health than they do in nursing homes. This part of Neighborhood Housing Services, or NHS – making homes accessible to people as they age -- is becoming a really big deal.
“In the United States, every day of the year, 12,000 people turn 65 years old,” says Holt. “They call it the silver tsunami.”
It had been about a year since Dave Holt first met Lawrence and Mamie Cage.
“A year huh? It’s been that long?” asks Mamie Cage. “Where is the time going? That was the best thing! Thank God for Mr. Holt, and the nurse from Ochsner that got in touch with you – thank God for her. 'Cause she asked me: Is there anything you need Ms. Cage? I said: I need a handicapped shower.”
Mr. Cage had a stroke four years ago. He’s been in a wheelchair ever since, which was too wide to get through the bathroom door in the house they’d lived in since 1970. It was the first home they ever owned, and where they raised their kids, near Mr. Cage’s job at the Southern Refinery in Avondale. But now, the bathroom was a series of huge obstacles, like the bathtub.
“Only trouble I had was getting in the tub and getting out,” says Lawrence Cage.
“Well before it was kinda hard and awkward because you had to get the bench, sit him on it, and get his leg over that, you know,” explains Mamie Cage.
And the tub wasn’t the only hard part. Mrs. Lawrence would be in the middle of doing something, and suddenly her husband needed to use the bathroom.
“Oh man, I’m doing this, and now he got to go the bathroom,” recalls Mamie Cage. “Why he got to go to the bathroom right now?”
Something had to change, but with their savings eaten up in medical expenses, the Lawrences didn’t know how to afford it.
“How am I going to do this – you know, a handicapped bathroom? I don’t have any money. And Every time I would ask for different programs, they would say: You’s a dollar over, you two dollars over. We can’t do it.”
Until they found Neighborhood Housing Services. Most of NHS’s referrals come, like the Cage’s did, through outpatient care, or through the office on aging. Mamie and Lawrence take me to see their new bathroom, which basically allowed Mr. Cage to stay in his house.
“They did the door.” Mrs. Cage demonstrates: “Watch this.”
In addition to a new, wider bathroom door, there are grab bars, a shower he can roll right into, a higher toilet, and a wall-mounted sink without a cabinet underneath to get in the wheelchair’s way.
“It’s just so wonderful!” exclaims Mamie Cage.