Reflecting Harry Weinberg’s compassion for older adults, the Foundation has always prioritized funding to support low-income and vulnerable members of our community as they age. In fact, funding of older adult services has represented the single largest area of Foundation giving—a total of more than $400 million since 1990. Today, the Foundation is committed to supporting programs that provide comprehensive “no wrong door” service-delivery for low-income older adults (and/or their caregivers) and that enable them to age in their communities, with maximum independence and quality of life. A new evaluation finds that one such program is making a significant difference right here in Baltimore, also saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

In 2015, recognizing that resources for low-income, older adult homeowners were hard to access and underfunded, a group of nonprofits and Baltimore City officials came together to focus on this problem. That meeting birthed a partnership that now includes 14 organizations, as well as City agencies, with a shared mission: helping low-income older adults with care coordination and home repairs, including grab bars, electrical and plumbing repairs, and roof and furnace replacements.

The collaborative effort is named HUBS—Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors—because of its focus on five “hubs” or regions that cover the entire City. When HUBS began, the Baltimore City Housing Department had a backlog of 600 low-income older adults waiting for home modifications and repairs. By coordinating resources and helping to streamline the application process for services, HUBS was able to eliminate that backlog. To date, the program has served more than 1,400 homeowners. These clients were connected, not with generalized support, but with individually tailored outreach from social workers, occupational therapists, and handymen.

A new evaluation of the HUBS program, performed by IMPAQ International, found that for every dollar of the $7 million that the Weinberg Foundation has invested in home repairs and safety modifications for HUBS, $1.80 in mostly public healthcare costs—a total of $12.6 million—has been saved. The evaluation also cited several other positive results of the HUBS program:

  • 67 percent of older adults served by HUBS reported feeling safer in their home, as well as feeling more confident leaving their home to shop, volunteer, exercise—simply to be part of the community.
  • 62 percent reported improved mobility entering and exiting the home.
  • Fewer falls and less social isolation; improved physical endurance, strength, and daily activity performance; and reduced financial burdens and anxiety related to home maintenance.

The IMPAQ evaluation follows federal recognition in 2018 of the HUBS collaboration and impact. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development recognized the initiative with the Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships.

The message is clear: helping older adults to age with dignity in their own home should no longer be largely aspirational. It is a critical investment for all of us, especially as the baby boom generation ages. Now consider that less than two percent of all private philanthropic support in the US is dedicated to helping older adults. Not only does the HUBS program benefit the individual client, it also benefits the greater community by contributing to blight prevention, neighborhood stability, generational wealth transfer, and system-wide health care savings. We hope that the demonstrated success of the HUBS program in Baltimore will provide a model for nonprofits and funders in other cities throughout the US. To learn more about HUBS, please reach out to me at emillett@hjweinberg.org.