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Monday, March 27, 2017

With Gratitude: Transition Stories

You reach a certain age—I am well past it—when every other thought is one of gratitude: for waking up in the morning; for being able to still see, smell, hear; for the old friends who’ve stood by me through my worst and craziest moments; for the new friends who enhance my life in ways I could never imagine.

The gratitude list goes on, gets more specific, even prosaic: Thanks for that unexpected sunny day yesterday; for the two open dryers at the Laundromat; for the ride to church; for those delish chicken patties at Gene’s Sausage Shop & Deli.

And sometimes the cause for the gratitude surprises in its enormity: the unsolicited offer of temporary shelter—a warm and comfortable place to live as I continue along my affordable senior housing search. And that this place comes with both a two- and a four-legged friend is all the more reason to be grateful.

Then, of course, there are the blog posts that this entire adventure will inspire. After all, it’s been quite a long while since I’ve shared a home with anyone. I expect some pretty good stories to emerge from this much anticipated transition at such a ripe old age.

And so I’m grateful as well to be able to write and share those stories.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Application Process: Part II

Last Thursday, I dropped off what may be my last application for an affordable (subsidized) senior housing apartment. The building is owned by CHA and it took me awhile to make my decision about which of their buildings I wanted to apply for, especially since you only get one choice if you opt to choose a specific senior building.

The application itself is pretty short—barely four pages—and includes the basics: race, citizenship, income, and contact information.

The longest housing application I filled out was more than twice as long—10 pages for a studio apartment in one of the North Park Village buildings, in a non-CHA building run by the Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corporation.

In addition to the basics, that application required my "Housing History" for the past 10 years, including name and contact information of landlords, and a list of doctors visited regularly. Plus, since the building I applied for allows pets--one, I think--there was a long list of common household pets for a pet-owning applicant to check. 

Four of the other applications I filled out were for buildings owned by various other corporations and entities, not-for-profits in some cases. All are on the far north side, which again is where I’ve lived most of my adult life in Chicago. And most of those were “pre-applications,” all one pagers that included not only the basics, but sometimes a driver's license number or present employer or apartment size preference.

I’m not certain, but I think the brevity of these pre-apps might have something to do with the long waitlists for these buildings. Maybe once someone inches up the list--typically over the course of six months (if they're lucky), one year, or perhaps longer--a more detailed application will need to be completed.

If memory serves, the very first place I looked at back in early February—the Johnston R. Bowman Residential Apartments—didn’t require an application until I visited the building and saw the apartments. I wasn’t all that crazy about the location of the building, it’s part of the Rush University Medical Center on S. Paulina, but what sealed the deal against my considering it was that the windows in the apartments didn’t have screens, didn’t even open. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.

And for a couple of places I looked at—Friendly Towers, the Belle Shore Apartment Hotel, the Farwell-Jarvis Apartments—I didn't submit applications for several reasons, including how onerous the process was and/or the size and amenities of the apartments.

Also, it's important to note that for most of the affordable senior buildings I applied for, I never got past the front desk or the property manager's office where I was handed the application. It's not until an apartment becomes available that an applicant actually gets to see it. It took me some time to digest that this is exactly the opposite of what it's typically like to rent an apartment. And it may have something to do with the fact that these are subsidized units.

If any of my blog readers are interested in more information about my search—again, whether for themselves or for friends and family members—please email me at I’ve done a lot of research and footwork during this process and am happy to share what I know with others who’d benefit from it.

But as for my own search, I feel I may be done. Over the past six weeks, I've submitted applications to those buildings I'd consider living in, especially the two that allow pets. And in the meantime--and this is especially the best news so far--a friend has invited me to move in with her, in the Rogers Park home she grew up in, until one of my applications is accepted. In deepest gratitude, I told her that if that takes longer than she can stand having me around, I'll make other arrangements.

Until then, I feel blessed beyond all measure.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Application Process: Part I

Last week, I received the email below from one of my high school friends, Colette; she lives with her husband in a suburb 30-ish miles from Chicago, in the house where they raised their family.

She and I are part of a group of nine high school friends who keep in pretty regular touch. Plus which she reads my blog. Her email makes reference to my March 3 post, where I write about dropping off an application for an affordable senior apartment at North Park Village in Chicago.

“Keep us posted on your application….Actually, I didn't know that you'd have to go thru an application process.  Just wondering what the criteria is.”

And so I thought, now there’s an appropriate topic for a blog post (or two): what are the criteria for applying for affordable senior housing in Chicago?

So in Part I, I’m just going to list all the places I stopped in at and/or applied for, most on the far north side of Chicago where I currently live, starting in Uptown and going north, more or less following the Red Line. I also looked at some west of there, and one west and south of the Loop.

In no particular order:

The Pomeroy
Morningside Court
The Pines of Edgewater
Nathalie Salmon House
Hollywood House
Thorndale Manor
North Park Village
Levy House
Kenmore Apartments
Judge Fisher
Caroline Hedger Apartments
Kenmore Plaza
Johnston R Bowman Residential Apartments
Farwell-Jarvis Apartments
Thorndale Manor
Harry J. Schneider Apartments
Friendly Towers
Belle Shore
William Castleman Apartments

In The Application Process: Part II, I will describe how and why these particular 19 buildings; whether or not I filled out an application; and, if so, what kind of information was requested in them.

So stay tuned, especially those readers who might themselves eventually seek affordable senior housing, or know someone who might. Forearmed is forewarned: there is an affordable housing crisis in Chicago--and beyond--including for seniors.

Friday, March 3, 2017

While Out Riding the Pulaski Bus

On Wednesday, I dropped off an application for senior housing at North Park Village, located at Ardmore and Pulaski in Chicago. To get there, I took the Peterson bus from Western to Pulaski, then walked to the entrance at Ardmore, a mere two blocks.

After dropping off the application—a little before 1 pm—I decided to continue walking south on Pulaski, six blocks from the Village entrance, to Foster Ave., where I knew there was a small mall with a Jewel-Osco. For someone without a car, it’s important to know how far the grocery store is from where you live.

Now for most of my adult life in Chicago, I lived within walking distance of either the Red or Brown lines, which made getting around the city fast, easy, and convenient, especially given their very generous hours of operation.

That all changed with the 2008 recession and the rising rents in Chicago, especially along L lines. And so in 2012, for the first time, I had to move farther west, along Western Ave., which meant I was now dependent on buses to get me to the L, and often buses with very limited service hours.

And so I considered this when applying at the Village, which meant knowing more about the #53 Pulaski bus. It runs between Peterson and 31st street, and is the major north-south route to get to and from the Village.  After going on-line, I was happy to see that the service hours were more than generous: 3:55 am – 1:00 am, seven days a week. Plus which the bus stops at three L lines that intersect with Pulaski: two Blue Line stops; a Green, and a Pink.

Learning this, I knew that after I dropped off my housing application, I’d have to take an exploratory ride on the #53, which I did, following my visit to the Jewel. A bus quickly showed up at the Foster and Pulaski bus stop, and notebook in hand, I boarded at 2:20 pm.

And what pleasant surprises as we headed south: first, an Aldi, Dollar Tree, and Walgreen’s, barely a minute south of Foster, stores I frequent where I currently live. Then, at Lawrence, L&P Liquors and Tap Room. Now, as a fan of dive bars, I imagine I may want to stop in the Tap Room on the occasional early evening for my standard “one and done” of whatever lager is, well, on tap.

At Elston & Pulaski, there was the Northside Grill, offering, as the modest sign reads: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner. Next to dive bars, local breakfast joints are a particular favorite.

I wasn’t sure how far south I’d keep riding, but was glad to see the easily accessible entrance to the Blue Line at Irving Park, the train I’d be taking downtown when needed. We arrived there at 2:30 pm.

Finally at Addison there was the LaVilla Strada Restaurant and Brudder’s Sports Bar & Grill, both not far from Windy City Produce at Milwaukee. It was now 2:35 pm.

Now these stores and other establishments may not be to everyone’s liking, but knowing they were there—and reachable by bus at any hour I’m likely to be out—made me feel very good about living along the #53 route.

So should my application at North Park Village be accepted, I know I'll find plenty to keep me entertained while out riding the Pulaski bus.