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nate those four kinds of areas that we have talked about. As most of the elderly here have said, we need to have transportation first. In order to get the health service, they have got to get there. A person with a cane or in a walker who needs to get to a health facility will have to be transported. So we will have to have a combination of kinds of things that will provide the services.
With $2 million, we could start with transportation. We could start with another staff person in a neighborhood health clinic who would devote his or her time—I am talking about a medical staff person-specifically to treating the elderly so they won't have to sit and wait all day. I can tell you some horror stories of elderly persons waiting in hospitals to have blood sugar tests. They go all day without eating. We need people in the health system who will be there to serve the elderly.
I think that an elderịy person has qualified over the years to demand a few special services when they go to a health clinic. Of course, we all know we go to doctors and we have to wait, but we are all not 75 or 76 years old.
We could start with the transportation; we could start with staff people who are there to provide service. We could expand the nutrition program, especially for the homebound. I am very interested in those people who cannot get out to a congregate meal site such as this, and there are many in this area.
We have a waiting list, as you know; we are allowed to serve a certain percentage of title VII meals to the homes. At first it was 10 percent and it has been relaxed over the years. Right now, we presently have a waiting list of 150 people who would like to have their meals delivered to them and I am sure that that number would be expanded many times more if people knew that that service was available.
There is presently a "Meals on Wheels” program, but it is funded under title XX, which includes a means test and which is vastly underfunded, in my estimation.
Senator EAGLETON. Where would the legal services be on your priority list?
Mr. GATES. As I say, as we try to prioritize, we have to weigh all of the factors, and if we would attempt to serve the total elderly population, we have found play legal services a very important part in the lives of older people. First of all, we have found over the last 3 years that people don't know they have legal problems. They say, "Well, I don't have any legal problems,” but they are not aware of estate planning; they are not aware of writing wills; they are not aware of their insurance benefits.
We have a lot of problems with social security and SSI. Those are the kinds of things that the legal services program have brought to light, that the ordinary person does have legal problems. So legal services are in that sphere of things that we would try to coordinate in the whole ball game.
Senator EAGLETON. But certainly not as keen in priority as nutrition, health, and transportation?
Mr. Gates. It would have to be given a little lower priority than that, but I don't know if it should be at the bottom of the list.
Senator EAGLETON. What about my question that I asked earlier this morning of one or more of the witnesses? Should we do fewer things better or continue to do many things not so hot?
Mr. Gates. If you are thinking in terms of lumping funds together to do things, I would say do fewer things better.
Senator EAGLETON. Senator Johnston.
Senator JOHNSTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Gates. Your testimony has been excellent. Let me say, first of all, that on this question of SSI and social security problems, and that sort of thing, don't forget that your Senator and your Congressman have offices here in New Orleans that specifically can help on those items. Two or three of you have asked me about specific problems, so let me give you my telephone number here in New Orleans. I have got full-time people who are very good on those problems and I am going to give you this number and invite you all to call.
Specifically, ask for Mrs. Barras, B-a-r-r-a-s, but my number here is 589-2427.
I am going to repeat that: 589-2427, Mrs. Barras, B-a-r-r-a-s.
We have got an office down in the Federal Building, so those of you who can't get down there call, otherwise, go down and see her. Lindy Boggs has an office in the same building and I am sure she would be glad to see you as well.
Mr. McGovern. That would be the old Federal Building across from the old Post Office; right?
Senator JOHNSTON. That is that new Federal Building, the Hale Boggs Building. It is down in the Hale Boggs Building
So don't forget about us and I know Mr. Gates will refer us some folks, too, if they need some help.
Mr. GATEs. They can always call the Council on Aging, 586-1221, for any kind of assistance.
Senator JOHNSTON. Good. So much for that. My folks will be busy, I hope, later this afternoon and tomorrow.
I would like to ask you on another subject here, the question of housing. I am interested in housing patterns for the elderly, specifically in New Orleans. Could you describe for me, I know you probably don't have the exact figures, but can you describe to me what percentage of the elderly live in their own homes, what percent are renters, how important the section 8 program is. Tell me something about housing patterns.
Mr. Gates. To the best of my knowledge right now, there is about 48 to 50 percent of the elderly who own their own homes.
Senator JOHNSTON. Forty-eight to fifty percent?
Mr. GATES. Right. But one of the things that is happening in New Orleans is that a lot of younger people are buying up property that older people had been living in for 20 or 25, 30 years as renters, and they are renovating the property for their own personal use, which there is nothing wrong with, but it does present a problem in displacing older people because they do have to find other housing.
We do have a housing assistance component at the New Orleans Council on Aging, whereas we physically go out and assist older persons in finding adequate housing. We were very instrumental in getting the section 8 program up off the ground as it relates to the elderly population.
Senator JOHNSTON. Section 8 coordinates with your office?
Mr. Gates. Yes; section 8 is handled by the housing authority here, but we have a very good working relationship with them. In fact, it was a joint effort that got the section 8 program into the Delta Towers.
Section 202: Housing, has run into some problems here, but we are still working on that. Section 8 itself is much better now than it was a year or a year and a half ago, primarily because we went into the neighborhoods and contacted the landlords. It was a problem with the section 8 program, to convince the landlords to participate. For some reason or another they were reluctant in the beginning. I think they are coming around.
I would hope that landlords would recognize the fact that renting their property to an elderly person is a much better investment than renting it to other people.
Senator JOHNSTON. Do you have any advice to us on how we might put our Federal money into housing for the elderly? Would you recommend section 8, 202, or some other program or just what would you recommend?
Mr. GATES. I think after we work the bugs out of the section 8 program, Senator, and really get the confidence of the landlords and keep putting forth the effort and keep educating them that the section & program is the immediate answer to housing for the elderly.
The 202, section 8 program, is good for long-range solutions, and I think we should continue those, but right now for the immediate solution, and we are almost going through a crisis kind of thing now with people being displaced because of the flight back into the city because of properties skyrocketing outside of the parish, so I would say we would have to go with both programs, but I would certainly urge that more funding be put into the section 8 program, and as a long range plan, the 202, section 8 program.
The reason I say that is because we have a 202, section 8 program that we have been trying to get started for 312 years and I understand that they are going to turn the first spade of ground next month.
Mr. George. I would like to ask a question.
Mr. Gates. I wanted to tell the gentleman that the people from Desire did get paid Friday.
Mr. GEORGE. I am going to speak concerning this housing business. Now, first, the CIA, Community Improvement Agency, that's under HUD. Now, I know people downtown, I live at 3045 Feliciano, ZIP code 70126. That is near the Desire housing project.
We are homeowners. The problem is some people have had their housing fixed under the CIA program and are experiencing difficulty with the contractors. Now, one of the requirements of the CIA people is that you get a bonded contractor. You sign a contract at 3 percent, but these contractors don't seem to be fulfilling the obligation.
They have gone off and stuck to people with houses that aren't complete. They want them to sign a release so they can get_their money and still the man's work isn't done. The question is, Being an elderly person living on a fixed income, you have put your investment in a home, the city comes along and says it's substandard. HUD says, “We will help you fix up your house,” but these contractors, supposedly bonded, are doing shoddy work. What remedy is there for that!
Senator JOHNSTOx. Well, that's a good comment. What we have got to do is get HUD on the ball and supervising these contractors. It is not enough just to have a bond, you have got to supervise those people and tell them that they can't get the work, they can't get their hands on those Federal dollars unless they stand behind their work. I'm glad you brought that to my attention, because I am going to communicate with the HUD people.
Mr. GEORGE. Now, I was stricken in 1976, I was in the hospital and we had contracted for this agency to have our home fixed. The city sent out, oh, several pages of violations, so they said. Now, those people that Desire employed got me out of the hospital bed—I had to get a pass from the doctor-I had just been operated on on my stomach-to come down there to them.
They say, “Well, your house"-let's see, it was $16,000, roughly speaking at $92.50 å month and I said, “Oh, we couldn't catch ahold of a bill like that." I said, “In the first place, I will be 60 years old next month, in October, and I will retire from the postal service and our economy could not afford $92.50 a month." I said, "I will tell you what, I know plenty of these people working in the trades. If you will lend me the money, we will even get them bonded, if necessary, because they will do the work and he said, "No, that's not the policy. We have a list of contractors."
So to me that appears that is a skin game going on. (Laughter.]
Mr. GEORGE. You can laugh if you wish, but they have a specific list and you have to choose and they will send from that list and there is something wrong. Now, I am going to sign for $16,000 and you are going to put who you want to spend that money and then I have to sign a paper? That doesn't sound like sound business to me. They should have some leeway.
See, I go up town in the seventh ward, what they call the Creole section, and worked in the trades when I was a youngster and know those fellows that can build a house from the ground up, but because of certain circumstances, being minority, they didn't have the opportunity that the other people had, but this case has changed. But what I am saying is this: If the rules could be flexible enough that if you can get the people to meet the qualifications and standards and produce, that if you are going to sign for that money, let you spend it, you have got to pay it back- let you spend it like you can get the best results for it.
Senator JOHNSTON. I appreciate those comments on that. Let me ask you this along that line and I think Senator Eagleton alluded to this earlier. How do we get input from the elderly? Now, there has been some very good input here to me to make me aware of things, but how do you get it? How can we better improve the mechanism?
Mr. Gates. Well, we get it, Senator, first of all, we have 33 meal sites. We are in daily contact with the elderly. The New Orleans Council on Aging is a private, nonprofit agency funded through city, State, and Federal funds.
We are governed by a board of directors and we have various committees on that board that hold meetings that invite the elderly of the community to come in and give us the input. In other words, we would like to know what they want, what kind of health service are they giving priority. We are presently operating a dental van in conjunction with the city that was primarily funded for the use of children, but they found out they had a little extra time, so we are using the dental van 2 days a week now to provide dental care to the elderly. That was one of the priorities that this health advisory committee, composed of people from the neighborhoods said that they wanted.
Periodically we provide direct health services to different neighborhoods and we ask the people, “What do you want us to provide when we come out there?" It varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. We provide podiatry, and you think about that. As you get older, your feet develop callouses and things and podiatry is very expensive.
So to answer your question to get the input, we go to the people and ask them “What do you want?” We have our workers who are in daily contact with people who come back in and say, "Well, this person has a housing problem. The house needs to be repaired or the city needs to come in and do something about it healthwise, and we refer it into the system.
Senator JOHNSTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Gates.
Senator EAGLETON. There was a lady in the back that wanted to say something and then another gentleman over here. STATEMENE OF MS. RAYBORN, A RESIDENT OF NEW ORLEANS
Ms. RAYBORN. They sent a man out to my house to see what had to be done and these people said it is almost ready to fall down and the Government is supposed to give me $5,500 and had me to come over there on Claiborne somewhere and sign up and they sent a man out and they examined the house. I don't know whether they got the $5,500 or not, but I haven't heard nothing else about it. So that is what I want to know. The $5,500, where did it go to? The Government is supposed to give me that to fix my house and some men come out and looked at the house and I signed up and I don't know whether the Government give them the money or what, but I ain't got none of it.
Senator EAGLETON. Well, I will tell you what, if you will talk with Mr. Kirk Melancon there he will try to get the specifics for you through Senator Johnston's office, that's what we call casework. I do this in Missouri, he does this in Louisiana. We try to help our constituents with particular personal problems just to see what has happened and why it happened and I'm sure Senator Johnston will do that for you.
Senator JOHNSTON. I will be glad to and you all remember Kirk Melancon, he is on my staff now, and if you will give him your name and number, we will be in touch with you.
Senator EAGLETON. This gentleman has his hand raised. Would you give us your name, please, sir.