ElderHelp looks to stay in Encinitas after setback

ENCINITAS — A San Diego-based nonprofit that matches volunteers with the region’s elderly population said a recent setback in Encinitas will not deter it from its goal to provide care in the city.

ElderHelp, which recently was denied funding from Encinitas through the community development block grant program, said it will seek funding from other sources to continue its programs — HomeShare and Concierge Club, which it brought to Encinitas last year.

“We are going to try to stay in Encinitas, but funding drives the allocation of our resources,” ElderHelp Executive Director Deborah Martin said. “We will do what we can.”

ElderHelp has begun to look to local foundations, including the Harbaugh, Dickinson and Mizel family foundations, for potential funding. The latter partners with Encinitas to award thousands in grants annually, a program Martin said ElderHelp was intent on pursuing.

Martin was disappointed in the city’s decision to cut off block grant funding after one year. The City Council based its decision off of what they said was the nonprofit’s failure to deliver the services outlined in their funding request at the beginning of the fiscal year.

But Martin said that the expectations — 24 signups in a year — were based on the expectation the group would receive the full $15,000 it had requested, which Martin said they would use to hire a program manager that would be housed at the Community Resource Center, an Encinitas-based nonprofit with which it had partnered.

The city only awarded $4,189 in block grant funds, in addition to the $15,000 in general fund dollars granted.

“To be honest, that doesn’t even cover the administrative costs,” Martin said.

Martin said she was also proud that with the exception of the housing numbers, the organization was able to meet all of the other benchmarks it laid out in its funding application. Programs such as HomeShare, however, take time to gain a foothold in the community, as the senior population targeted isn’t easy to find, Martin said.

“These aren’t the seniors who frequent the senior center, they aren’t on social media, so it takes a lot of work, and more importantly, it takes time,” Martin said. “It (HomeShare) has great potential to grow, but it has obstacles. First, you have to find the inventory. Then, you have to find the matches, and finally, you have to find the funding, all of which have hurdles.

“But even if you’re only serving three people, you have to look at the impact those services have on their lives,” Martin said. “Cities tend to focus on volume. We like to focus on the impact we have on lives.”

ElderHelp primarily serves the City of San Diego, where they have 50 ongoing HomeShare clients and 30-40 new clients a year. Martin said they came to Encinitas two years ago at the urging of the Encinitas Senior Commission, which had heard of the programs and felt that they would be a good fit in the community, Martin said.

They started working with the Community Resource Center to put together a plan of action, but the rollout was delayed when the Encinitas-based nonprofit’s executive director left, leaving CRC without leadership for almost a year.

“We were bringing a new dimension to them,” Martin said.

But Martin said partnering with the city made sense: Encinitas had a documented need for affordable housing, and they could assist by matching people who needed the housing into the homes of the elderly who needed their assistance.

And in Encinitas, which has 5,000 residents over the age of 65 who live alone and another 10,000 residents on the verge of becoming seniors, Martin said they believe the city will need to invest in services like HomeShare sooner than later.

“I think this is the next big crisis for America, because we have this huge Baby Boom generation that is reaching this age, and cities like Encinitas have to have a master plan in place on how to ensure that population isn’t overlooked,” Martin said.

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