I was at home cooking dinner one recent evening when I checked my phone and found 3 missed calls and 1 voicemail, all from the same number.

The voicemail was from Sue, a resident of a community that is part of HUD’s Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program. She’d seen an action alert from LeadingAge earlier in the day.

We’d sent the alert to get advocates fired up enough to contact their Senators and Representatives in support of a final spending bill that provided a 16% increase to the 202 account. If the bill didn’t pass in its current form, we warned, HUD would not have the money to continue the contracts for probably hundreds of 202 communities like Sue’s.

Sue had seen the alert. Now, she was worried about the future of her home. By the end of the voicemail, she was crying.

I turned the stove off and called her back.

SAVE HUD 202

We recently formed our Save HUD 202 grassroots campaign with people like Sue in mind. We’re fighting to protect a critical program that Sue and members of almost 400,000 older adult households rely on.

Where would Sue go if she lost her housing?

She’d undoubtedly join the millions of low-income older adults who are forced to pay more than they can afford for their housing and then have much less to spend on food, health care, and transportation.

Maybe she’d join the growing ranks of people who are currently homeless and are over 50 years old.

Maybe she’d live in substandard housing.

Maybe she’d be forced to live with relatives or others she feared would take advantage of her or treat her poorly.

AGE OUT LOUD

By the time Sue called me, she had called both of her Senators and her Representative. She knew her voice was one of many needed in this fight, and asked for my advice on how to get others involved. I emailed her a script that she could read at her resident council’s meeting to urge others to make their calls to Capitol Hill. Sue grilled me on the likelihood of her losing her housing.

Two weeks ago, Sue emailed me about the news that the omnibus spending bill had fully funded all Section 202 renewals. She asked me if her voice was “worth something.”

I’m confident that Sue’s voice was worth absolutely everything in this latest round of budget battles.

There are more budget battles ahead, even for something as terrific as affordable housing for very low-income older adults. I’m excited to join Sue and others on this journey.

The theme of Older Americans Month this year is “Age Out Loud.” I believe this ties in perfectly with housing advocacy. In this fight to protect programs and services that help the poorest seniors, our voices might make all the difference.