Recuperative Care Client Trades Sleeping on Bus Benches for New Senior Living Community

For nearly three months, Barbara Buchanan shuffled from room to room at National Health Foundation’s recuperative care center, tapping her cane on the hardwood floors as she paced, eager to begin her new life—far away from the streets she knew so well. Sometimes waiting was the hardest part. She wasn’t much for small talk. But staff who know her best describe a sassy, spunky Barbara with a Southern sense of humor they’d grown quite fond of.

“She works hard for the money, so hard for it, honey,” she sings in her familiar one-note baritone. So, you better treat her right—as Donna Summer would put it. Barbara didn’t want any part of Karaoke Friday. But she did want a home, and one was finally within reach.

The Texas native had been homeless multiple times in her life—eight years here and four years there—often sleeping on bus benches. It started after the death of her mother. Barely surviving on Social Security, the senior was faced with a heart-wrenching decision. Would she pay the rent or bury her mother? Her heart made the choice for her, and she was soon making her way back to her childhood home in Galveston. Unfortunately, she missed her mother’s funeral, waiting for her Social Security benefits. And she lost her house. The double tragedy sent her into a downward spiral of depression and alcoholism, adversely impacting her health and housing stability. 

Barbara was in and out of hospitals. Last fall, life-threatening blood clots in her legs landed her at Providence St. John’s Health Center, which referred her, upon discharge, to National Health Foundation.

NHF works with clients like Barbara to create a plan for achieving long-term stability and independence, along with aftercare support, which in Barbara’s case has included helping her follow up with her medical care and mental health treatment, and secure permanent housing. At the end of 2018, she was selected in a lottery for tenancy in Athens Vistas Apartments, a brand-new senior living community in Los Angeles. The complex also offers an on-site service coordinator to provide case management services, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling and other support, made possible by the Salvation Army and Alta-Med.

NHF was there with her every step of the way, ensuring she made it to her appointments, helping her manage her funds and finding a donor who matched her savings for the security deposit. And, of course, cheering her on! While incredibly resilient, Barbara still worried about affording the deposit, a bed, and the pots and pans she plans to use to cook her favorite Southern dishes. But NHF stepped in with a few housewarming gifts to welcome her home.

Barbara officially signed the lease on her new apartment on January 31, 2019.