The South Portland Housing Authority runs a Senior Home Modification Program. The program serves to help seniors living in their home with small modifications so they can continue living safely. For example, the program pays for handrails, replacing decking, carbon monoxide detectors, grab bars, light fixtures, checking out dryer vents, safe stair steps, and many other things that help people stay safe.

South Portland Housing Authority carpenter David Jordan repairs entry stairs for South Portland resident as part of the Senior Home Modification Program. Chance Viles/Courtesy photo

Every year the authority receives a $50,000 grant for the program from Maine State Housing. The authority can spend up to $2,500 per home.

“There is such a shortage of assisted living for elderly, especially low-income elderly people in Maine,” said Phillip Smith, director of resident services.

This year’s grant is about to end, though there is room for a few more homes. South Portland Housing Authority is already setting up next year’s grant and will start anew right away in the new year.

“We do this to help seniors stay in their homes, especially those on fixed incomes,” Smith said. “If we can prevent one fall and save them money from medical bills, keep them in a home, then this is worth it.”

Part of the problem is the difficulty of finding carpenters and electricians for small jobs, as most people in field are looking for larger jobs with more stability. “If people want to hire a handyperson, it’s almost impossible to find people to do small jobs,” said Smith. “Sometimes people are on waiting lists for months, and the work often has high costs when it does happen.

“These repairs seem smaller but seniors on fixed incomes may not be able to keep up with the maintenance and it adds up.”


South Portland Housing Authority has its own carpenters and electricians and workers, and with the grant, they can support many seniors with these small jobs. “This is the most rewarding work,” carpenter David Jordan said. “We talk about falls and injuries and costs, but at the end of the day this ultimately saves lives. With the issues around finding new housing, keeping seniors in their home is important as ever.”

“We’ve done well this year,” said Smith. “We have a grant that usually covers about 20 homes per year, that’s as much as the money will allow, but we’ve managed to stretch that. We’re on pace to exceed what we normally do this year. And next year, we can hopefully do even more.”

Most seniors are eligible for the program. To reach out about the program, one can visit the South Portland Housing Authority website or call the authority at 207-773-4140.

“Within a day or two of them calling, I zip right over and I do an assessment, fill out the paperwork, and then make plans with the carpenter and electrician to do the work,” said Smith.

“It’s such a great program, the seniors are just so thrilled with it,” Smith added. “I get emails and phone calls and thank-yous all the time. It’s an extremely worthwhile program that Maine State Housing does. All over the state they’ve had similar successes. South Portland is a pretty big city comparatively. I know there are probably hundreds and hundreds of homes out there that could use the service. We’re hoping to do our best to provide that for people.”


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