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Independent Voice

Attitude of Gratitude Helps Seniors

May 14, 2021 12:00AM ● By Debra Dingman

The view of Heritage Commons from the 3rd floor balcony showing a well-cared for landscape with winding paths, a therapy pool on one side and a community garden on the other. Photo by Debra Dingman

“There are always going to be people we don’t understand or we don’t relate to. It’s all in your attitude” 

Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of an investigative report on Heritage Commons, the 120-unit senior housing complex on Highway 113. The next two buildings, Heritage Commons 3, are under construction and will bring an additional 45 more units to the senior community. However, not all of the units are for seniors.

DIXON, CA (MPG) - The elderly gentleman is watering several red geranium plants next to an ornate statue of the Virgin Mary on his small patio. A woman with silver-streaked hair is setting out bird feed in hers. The sky is blue without a cloud and the sun is bright on this summer morning at Heritage Commons.

“I’ve lived here three and a half years and I feel blessed,” said a resident requesting anonymity. “I don’t make any problems and I have a beautiful little apartment. All I want to do is live in peace and that’s why I moved into a senior home.” She uses her appreciation for her $750 a month rent even though it is at the highest end, well-landscaped surroundings, and even pest control to override some of the frustrating parts of living in a HUD community managed by The John Stewart Professional Management Company.

Undercover Boss?

According to news reports, the buildings were built by Neighborhood Partners, an LLC with Principals Luke Watkins and David Thompson but had several players involved with funding and their website reports it was a “collaborative effort.”

“We are skilled at leveraging local resources, bringing in external capital and obtaining supportive subsidies,” reports the website. That would be funding from HCD Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, the HCD HOME Program, Affordable Housing Program of the Federal Home Loan Bank, 4 percent tax credits and tax-exempt bond financing.

The company develops only cooperative, mutual and nonprofit housing since 1998. They have created 18 communities in Truckee, Davis, Dixon, Woodland and Placer County.

But, it’s now owned by Delta Senior Housing (Affordable Housing) non-profit organization with a Board of Directors chaired by Bill Powell and that organization is who hired the John Stewart Company, according to one credible source. With the weave of builders, backers, and government funding, one can easily see why the generation that thought going to the top would solve problems, is confused when they can’t go over the heads of management when they feel management isn’t responding appropriately.

“What makes a home is your front door, your window coverings, and your pretty patios. The issue here is instead of allowing us a home, they keep taking more rights way. We can’t meet in a group to discuss issues and the management says it’s not their responsibility,” said a tenant.

Residents or Patients?

Older people often have health issues and become more needy. Out of the 250 calls to 911 in one year, 60 percent were for medical. Is there enough oversight from management to see to the tenants—both healthy or not? And, is that their job?

“One little lady is lost all the time. She has dementia. She wanders around. What if she wanders out in the street? I tried to find out where she lives but there was no one to ask. When I finally found out, I wrote it down on a paper in my house. I’ve taken her home twice,” said a woman. “The intellectually disabled need a controlled environment. I wonder about people who bought homes around here. I wonder if they were made aware.” she added. The management company has not responded to numerous requests for information.

Another resident takes medication for cancer and forgot to feed her dog so it was dying. Another woman thinks she is “rescuing homeless people” which have brought transients and ultimately drug users and crime. Now enter the issue that new residents are being placed at this “senior housing” that aren’t seniors and bring a host of uncertainties to their neighbors.

That would be CAMINAR, a behavioral health agency in Fairfield responsible for ensuring the delivery of community based mental health, mental retardation, substance abuse and/or behavioral health services to individuals with those disabilities. Many residents have reported wandering residents, undressed residents, residents with dementia, and residents who are Bi-polar, schizophrenic, or severely autistic. They have been placed there due to a special clause that says a small number of units can be filled with non-seniors.

Analysis of the past year’s police calls showed battery; fraud; burglary; rape; drug possession, usage, and sale; violation of court order; neighbor disturbance; and threats.

Longtime residents say they have noticed a marked decline in the “quality of people” in the past couple years but interestingly, the longtimers are the ones who also seem to have thrived.

Some Residents Thrive

Those who enjoy Heritage Commons, say it is about recognizing everyone can have a bad neighbor.

“There are always going to be people we don’t understand or we don’t relate to. It’s all in your attitude,” said one woman.

“I lived in Florida and there were drug dealers everywhere, but I’ve called and talked to the [apartment] manager and she followed up with an email. There are way too many people here that have way too much time and there are people looking for the negative,” said her nearby neighbor.

Another woman said she “loved living at Heritage Commons” adding that she is a social person and through church, broke social isolation.

“You have to be adaptable,” she said.

“You should be thankful for low rent, social care, free food every other Tuesday, and they came to us and gave vaccinations. There is a lot of good here. Even gardeners take care of the place,” said another. “The people who complain should move.”

A couple long-timers gave kudos for the staff being business-like and professional and offered that “with being kind,” they have gotten their concerns addressed. They also said not having social activities or access to amenities like the library, therapy pool, patio, community room, movie night, Bingo, and morning coffee due to the pandemic has caused new stress.

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