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Serving Seniors – Silvercrest

by SUSAN LAWRENCE
SILVERCREST MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR

Mission Statement of Silvercrest:

The Salvation Army Silvercrest Residences exist to provide clean, safe, and comfortable housing to low-income elderly persons, and to do so in an environment that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of the individual residents, but not intrusive of personal privacy.

In concert with the adjacent corps community center, the residence seeks to provide a range of supportive services intended to sustain independent living and to enrich the quality of residents’ lives though opportunities for social fellowship, personal growth and spiritual nurture.


The Silvercrest Management Department is the newest department within the Western Territory’s Business Administration section and was developed to manage the day-to-day operations of the HUD-financed senior-citizen apartment communities owned by The Salvation Army throughout the West.

Many are surprised that the Army would be in the apartment housing business. However, the Silvercrest concept is to provide more than just housing—the concept is to provide a “home” for the residents where they can have access to social services and ministries to the whole person while living in a safe, comfortable, and peaceful environment.

What is a Silvercrest?

Since the mid-1970s The Salvation Army has sponsored the development of 36 independent living communities for low-income senior citizens, called Silvercrest residences.

Located in eight states, the apartment communities range in size from 22 units to 257 units. Most were built adjacent to a local corps and have community space that is conducive to services and programs that would benefit the elderly: for instance, large community spaces for gatherings, TV rooms, libraries, low-cost laundry facilities, and—in some cases—a food program where residents can purchase a hot meal daily for a nominal fee. The Silvercrests are open to anyone who qualifies under the age and income restriction guidelines; at most of the residences, however, there is a significant waiting list for housing.

In order to finance the construction of the Silvercrests, The Salvation Army received loans or grants from the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 202 program, which is available only to not-for-profit organizations. Under this program sponsors, such as TSA, enter into long-term 40-year agreements with HUD guaranteeing that the apartment community will house only low-income senior citizens and/or handicapped individuals.

Affordable housing

Besides funding for the construction, HUD also provides rental assistance covering each unit in the community. Through an annual rent evaluation process, HUD will adjust the rents in relation to the anticipated budgetary needs for each property. However, the rental income needed to adequately operate a facility is much higher than the amount a low-income individual could afford. As a result, HUD provides rental assistance so each resident need only pay 30% of his/her adjusted household income toward the rent and HUD pays the difference. For example, a person who receives $750 per month from SSI pays approximately $215 toward the rent, and HUD pays the difference.

The resident’s income is verified annually, and his/her rental portion recalculated to remain 30% of the income. No matter the amount of the total rent, the resident continues to pay only his/her portion. In this manner, the low-income senior citizen can afford to live independently in housing that is designed specifically for the elderly population, and the property owner will have the funds necessary to operate and maintain the facility.

Current situation

Currently, the 36 Silvercrest residences are being managed by three different external management agents and two different divisional management departments, who are compensated monthly by the properties based on a percentage of rental income collected.

The management agents report to the divisions with respect to the on-going issues at the properties, and THQ has loosely been involved in the operations of the properties mainly through the program department.

The diversity of the management agents created a lack of continuity at the Silvercrests. At the same time, some deficiencies were seen in overall expertise and lack of cohesion between corps and residences resulting in a poor ability for the Army to reach its mission objectives.

Financial crisis

Because HUD allows funding to adequately operate the Silvercrest communities, it was the intent of The Salvation Army that each of the Silvercrests would be financially self-sustaining. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

Several of the Silvercrest communities are operating in negative cash positions due to inadequate rent levels or excessive vacancy loss. Still others have deferred maintenance or under-funded reserve accounts so that future capital repairs and replacements have no source of funding. As a result, The Salvation Army has had to advance money to some of the Silvercrests to cover operating deficits. If this trend is not corrected, as the properties age, the financial stability of the properties will only worsen, and the amount that the Army will need to contribute will increase.

As a result of the financial dilemma that the territory faces with respect to the Silvercrests, the territorial administration took a long look at the current operations of the facilities. After well-educated research, advice from a highly experienced consultant, and considerable discussion by and between the divisions and THQ, it was decided that the territory must take action and develop a professional, centralized, in-house management department to manage the Silvercrests and address the financial and operational concerns of the properties.

Structure of the new department

The new Silvercrest Department will be gradually phased in. Starting May 1, 2003 through July 2004, the department will assume management responsibilities of two to three Silvercrests per month.

The primary necessity in developing a new department is to have capable and credible staff members, with a director to oversee the management operations from THQ. After a three-month search, I was selected as director. I am proud to be associated with an organization like The Salvation Army and continue my career in this field.

The territory has been broken into three regions so that a regional supervisory person could be hired to monitor and supervise a group of nine to twelve Silvercrest locations. The first regional property manager, Gina Dawson, who was hired in April, works out of the Del Oro divisional headquarters building. Gina has over 22 years of experience with HUD housing programs.

By September, the second regional property manager for the Southern California and Sierra Del Mar properties will be hired, and the third regional property manager to oversee the properties located in the Intermountain, Cascade and Northwest Divisions will be hired in March of 2004.

Additionally, there is a centralized accounting department at THQ with a controller, Claudia Galvez, who is a seasoned accountant from Deloitte and Touche, and three accounting clerks to be added as properties come on line.

To handle the site operations, the Silvercrests are fully staffed depending on the size of the property with an administrator or manager, office support personnel, maintenance personnel, and in some cases a social service coordinator and/or program coordinator. At least one staff member resides on the premises in the event of an emergency situation.

The Salvation Army has appointed officers as administrators at nine of the Silvercrests. At the remaining properties, employees—who in many cases are Salvationists—are hired in this position. In order to carry out the mission statement of the Army, the staff must be supportive of the Army in its efforts to minister and provide a loving home for the residents.

Programs

Besides evaluating the financial concerns, TSA’s leadership reviewed the success of the Silvercrests with relation to the mission statement objectives of the Army. Most of the Silvercrests were built adjacent to the local corps, with the view that the corps would provide support to the residents, seeing them as part of their extended ministry.

For a number of reasons, this has not been fully realized, and there is still considerable room for growth and development. The hope with the new Silvercrest Department as managers is that the relationship between the corps and the Silvercrest will be enhanced.

Tasks of management

Silvercrest management will be responsible for the staffing, supervision, budgeting, financial operations, maintenance and capital improvements, resident relations, program facilitating, community interaction, HUD compliance and relations, and monthly reporting to the Divisions and Territory.

The main objectives of the new department are:

  • To improve and maintain the short and long-term financial stability of the properties,
  • To improve and/or maintain the physical condition of the properties,
  • To promote and facilitate ministry, programs and social services at each of the Silvercrests,
  • To interact closely with the divisions and THQ leadership to ensure thorough communicating and comprehensive reporting as to the condition of the Silvercrests.

Future of Silvercrests

In the present housing shortage throughout the country the need for affordable housing is great. In California the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is in excess of $800, with the cost in urban areas even greater.

Without affordable housing for the seniors, the residents would be unable to live their golden years independently. The Salvation Army provides an invaluable service to the residents of our communities by providing an environment that meets their needs for shelter, for services and for spiritual support.

New Silvercrest Opening

The territory’s newest Silvercrest residence, located in Lake View Terrace, Calif., is under construction. Completion is set for December 2003.

For rental information, please send a written request to:
The Salvation Army
Silvercrest Department
180 E. Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach CA 90802.


MEET SUSAN LAWRENCE



Susan Lawrence


With more than a decade of experience in the affordable housing arena—including HUD subsidized properties—Silvercrest Management Director Susan Lawrence brings with her not only solid credentials, but a Christian commitment as well.

“I like the fact that The Salvation Army is a Christian organization,” she said. “My relationship with God is the most important thing in my life, and I am thrilled to be able to work for an organization that promotes the faith. I believe providing decent, affordable housing and services to seniors is an act of sharing love with those in need.

“Too many elderly are forgotten by their families; in essence, the community we provide becomes a type of family for many of the residents. God appreciates efforts such as this, and I think he looks kindly on those who lovingly provide for the basic needs of humankind.”

During college, the UCLA grad took time off and spent a year as an intern with Tony Campolo’s ministry, where she lived and worked in Southwest Philadelphia’s low-income housing projects. “It was a scary place—the whole oppression of the inner city was difficult to endure,” Lawrence recalled. During the time she spent tutoring youth and building relationships, she learned first hand about the devastating cycle of poverty.

Her three years on the UCLA women’s basketball team taught her additional lessons. “There were lots of challenges and expectations. It’s easy to have your identity wrapped up in a sport. If the team does well, you feel good—if it doesn’t, well…” Basketball, she says, taught her a lesson about who she was and who she needed to be.

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