A rendering of the Schmale Family Senior Residence.
A rendering of the Schmale Family Senior Residence. Courtesy of Serving Seniors

Serving Seniors may be best-known for its meal program, which provides 2,500 meals a day to seniors across San Diego County.

In 2017, the organization served 600,000 meals, helping seniors with one very significant expense. Now we are also assisting seniors who are on fixed incomes yet face steadily increasing housing expense.

Serving Seniors currently owns and operates 350 units of affordable senior housing divided between the Potiker Family Senior Residence in downtown San Diego and Potiker City Heights Senior Residence.

Early this summer, Serving Seniors will open the 62-unit Schmale Family Senior Residence in Ramona. Developed in partnership with Chelsea Investment Corporation, it will be the organization’s first affordable housing complex in east San Diego County.

Like the East Village and City Heights senior apartment complexes, Serving Seniors’ Ramona units are designated for seniors earning between 30 and 50 percent of the area’s median income, or $15,000 to $35,000, including those with disabilities, mental health issues and a history of homelessness. Rents are expected to be approximately $476 to $818 per month for a one-bedroom unit and $569 to $978 for a two-bedroom unit. Qualified seniors will pay 30 percent of their income to live at residence, with Section 8 housing vouchers available to cover the remainder of the rent.

The need for these additional units for low-income seniors is significant. The calculated income required for a single San Diego senior to pay for rent, housing, healthcare and transportation is $1,974 per month. However, according to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly benefit paid to retirees is $1,360 a month, which means if a senior is relying on Social Security alone, it is not enough to pay for monthly expenses.

Add into the equation the unique circumstances of San Diego County, where housing costs are a extraordinarily high for many. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,748 per month — well beyond the income of many senior citizens. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.8 percent of the San Diego population is aged 65 or older. It is no surprise based on these numbers that two out of every five San Diego seniors are at risk of homelessness, and unfortunately seniors account for 30 percent of San Diego’s homeless population.

The Schmale Family Senior Residence is a step toward alleviating the budget stresses that affect our local seniors. Serving Seniors believes in an integrated approach to serving older adults, and each apartment building provides supportive services such as social worker visits, access to a registered nurse and recreational activities.

If you or a loved one is a senior in need of assistance, would like more information, or are interested in donating to Serving Seniors, please call us at 619-487-0608 or visit servingseniors.org.

For more than two decades, Paul Downey has been a national advocate for low-income seniors. He is president and CEO of Serving Seniors, a nonprofit agency dedicated for nearly 50 years to increasing the quality of life for San Diego seniors living in poverty.