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John Hartman is enjoying his own living room, his own kitchen, and his own bedroom. He likes being able to cook his own meals and do laundry right in the comfort of his own space. All of these may seem like small things that can be taken for granted. But, for John, they represent something much bigger.
This did not happen easily. John, who is 61 years old, was previously married living in Boston, NY, but after going through difficult personal matters and an unplanned eviction in March 2020, John was alone and left without a home.
For a year, John moved from place to place. He worked at a restaurant in East Aurora. He rode his bike around town, until his only means of transportation, along with his backpack and personal ID were stolen. The Department of Social Services temporarily paid for a hotel stay. He camped out under St. Joe’s Cathedral and stayed in shelters. He temporarily slept on family members couches but did not want to be a burden.
“You don’t realize how strong you are until you have to be,” said John.
One morning after doing laundry at his son’s apartment, he saw a sign while waiting at a bus stop on South Park Avenue. It was about a new apartment building being built in Blasdell – People Inc. Oakwood Senior Apartments.
This apartment complex, which opened in January 2022, is for people aged 55 years and older and who are income-eligible. The building also includes seven furnished set-aside apartments for those who are frail elderly homeless in need of support services.
After learning more, applying and meeting with staff, John qualified for the apartments that our agency received funding for from the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI). John became an official tenant in March 2022. He currently lives in one of the ESSHI units, which provides qualifying people with a case manager and apartment furnishings.
Now, John can sit at his own table with hot coffee that he made in his own kitchen, while looking out his cozy living room window. Filled with emotion, John said, “I walked into my apartment overwhelmed and so very thankful.”
The Oakwood Senior Apartments is located in the former Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish School, which closed in 2004. Federal, state and Erie County grant programs and tax credits paid for the $8.8 million renovation. Through People Inc. Affordable Apartments, the agency has helped seven people who were homeless through the ESSHI partnership since the Oakwood Apartments opened.
People Inc. understands that affordable housing can be very challenging to find. “Through our Affordable Apartments, we continue to explore innovative ways to meet the needs of our community,” said Sarah Alessi, People Inc. vice president. “One of our goals is to help people of all ages and abilities to live affordably, safely and independently as long as possible.”
Located on a bus route near restaurants and shopping, People Inc. Oakwood Senior Apartments includes 33 units, offering one- and two-bedroom options. Tenants like John benefit from the numerous safety features and maintenance free living.
A Western New York native who grew up in the town of Tonawanda and with a history in the restaurant business, John has a passion for cooking and is grateful for the amenities included in his kitchen: a stove, refrigerator, and dishwater.
“I love to cook,” remarked John. “You name it, I cook it.”
The apartment building provides a space where he can pursue his interests and develop lasting friendships with fellow tenants, often sharing meals together that John himself made – in a place he proudly calls home.
This story was part of the 2022 Annual Report.