As told by Debbie Haglund, Executive Director

There are many wonderful things that happen at A-HOME, but some things stick out and touch my heart deeply. Bear with me as I tell you a story of one of our smaller houses (3 tenants) and the bonds that formed there over the past 18 years. Katie, Sam, and Sarah were housemates. Despite the medical and emotional issues, they each were working on, the three lived well together. 

Because of the type of funding A-HOME received to rehab the house, we are required to annually report demographic information. After three years of submitting reports by mail, NYS implemented online reporting. Although the information submitted did not change, I was shocked to be told that two of the tenants were ineligible to stay. They didn’t fit the definition of homeless. 

Let me give you a little background: 

Sarah had rented a room for 13 years from an elderly lady and the house was being sold. Sarah was living in the house alone, without heat or hot water, waiting for the sheriff to remove her. This was considered not homeless! Sam, a very large, medically frail man, was bouncing from cot to cot, staying with distant cousins in their living rooms not knowing where he would end up next. This was considered not homeless! Katie came from a motel room set up through the shelter system. She was eligible.

How could I tell Sam and Sarah, over 70 years old, that although they have called A-HOME their home for over three years, they had to leave?

This was one of the hardest things I have done in my 25+ years at A-HOME.

It was extremely emotional when I met with Sarah and Sam to tell them we were unsuccessful in finding a way for them to stay despite my, and our experienced case managers, pleas to the state for a reprieve. I was defeated. This is not what A-HOME is supposed to do. A-HOME solves housing insecurities not creates them. To my surprise, they were understanding and appreciative of the effort we had made. I was in awe of their strength to move on. 

Sarah, a part-time ESL teacher with a monthly income of $1,000, and some assets, would once again find herself looking for a place to live. Sam was retired living on Social Security. With our help they both began their search. We were determined to give them as much time as needed to find a safe, affordable place like A-HOME. 

Unbeknownst to us, Sarah wrote a letter to New York State advocating, not so much herself, but for Sam. She stated he was older and frail and deserved to stay at A-HOME. To my surprise her letter worked, and a ruling was made they both could stay. I will never forget the conversation I had with Sarah. She was so proud of herself. She had never advocated or written anything like that letter before in her life. It may have taken her 59 years to find her voice, but she did and it wasn’t even for herself, but for her new friend she made at A-HOME. 

Fast forward to 2023, Sarah was still living at A-HOME. Sadly, Katie and Sam had passed away. Sarah had two new housemates, Liz and Daniel. Liz and Daniel have a love/hate relationship. Both are very kind and caring people but they tend to push each other’s buttons. Sarah and Liz’s bedrooms are upstairs, Daniel ‘s downstairs, so they worked it out. 

In the past few years Sarah had become frail. With a cancer diagnosis, Crohn’s Disease, and then a fall, the ability of Sarah to safely live at A-HOME was questionable. Her second-floor bedroom was definitely not an option. When the case manager suggested to Liz and Daniel that Daniel take an upstairs bedroom so maybe Sarah could come home, there wasn’t much hesitation. Liz said if it meant Sarah could come home she could tolerate Daniel’s occasional loudness and Daniel said he would change rooms in a heartbeat. Sarah was in the hospital, we had a plan in place for her to return if deemed safe for her. 

 Sadly, since I started writing this, Sarah has passed away. Liz and Daniel are distraught. We are distraught, but Sarah’s story is an important one. 

The lesson I took from this? A family bond is not always by blood. 

Despite differences, challenges and obstacles, A-HOME residents often form a family bond. A bond like no other because it is a chosen bond. Three is often tough for housemates. Someone is always having to choose sides but for 14 years two sets of three have made special bonds in this cozy house. 

Many people at A-HOME do not have a supportive family. Many are alone. You are key to A-HOME providing the space and support for tenants to form new bonds, to have a safe and supportive home. Please make a donation, you will be helping older adults make a new home.