Group starts fund to assist senior citizens

One of Marge Glaser's concerns with finding new housing is keeping her dog, Dorothy.

A new group in Astoria hopes to help senior citizens on fixed incomes stay housed, fed and warm.

When John Day resident Cindy Johnsen read in December about a woman who was going to lose her apartment due to a major rent increase at the first of the year, she felt she had to do something. She wasn’t the only person.

A handful of people contacted the Astoria Senior Center to see how they could help Marge Glaser, a 74-year-old Astorian living on a fixed income. Their donations ensured Glaser will be able to stay in her apartment for the time being.

But they didn’t want to stop there. The week before Christmas, Johnsen, Senior Center director Larry Miller and many of the people who had reached out to Miller asking how they could help held a meeting. They want to do more for people in similar circumstances.

“Marge is like the perfect person (for this kind of aid),” Johnsen said.

Glaser is a senior on a fixed income, she lives alone, she has lived in the area for decades, she had friends offering temporary places to stay, and she just needed a bit more help to make ends meet.

The group plans to open a bank account under the umbrella of the Senior Center’s nonprofit status and are looking for seniors to help. The center will administer any payment of funds, Miller said, and the bank account will solely exist to assist seniors in need.

For now, the group is keeping the criteria for aid loose. Miller hopes they will reach out to local and regional organizations and coordinate their efforts with existing programs and services. Johnsen is considering contacting the Meals on Wheels program to find out which seniors owe money on their accounts. Maybe the group could pay off what’s owed, she said. For now, people interested in getting involved or donating should contact the Senior Center, she said.

Organizations that serve senior populations say the lack of affordable housing options and transportation are the biggest obstacles facing the region’s elderly and lower-income population. Buildings like the Owens-Adair Apartments in Astoria, set aside for low-income seniors, function with wait lists that are several years long.

A former volunteer with the Astoria Warming Center, Johnsen has seen many elderly women end up homeless due to a variety of factors from rent increases to sudden illness and bills piling up.

“I always thought if we could have caught them before they got here,” she said.

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