According to New York Foundation for Seniors President Linda Hoffman, when she first founded the agency’s home sharing program in 1981, there wasn’t anything like it in the city.
“I had heard about home sharing outside of the city and found out, way back in 1980, that there was a need for something called respite care, or short-term, in-home care for the frail and elderly,” Hoffman said.
Taking this information, Hoffman began shopping the idea for home sharing and respite care programs. After attempting to secure funding through several sources, Hoffman hit pay dirt when a Manhattan legislator provided the agency with a desk to operate from.
“At the time, we had two programs under one social worker. Lo and behold, it took off,” Hoffman said. “The Brooklyn delegation of the Assembly provided funding, [and] we got a grant to do respite care citywide.”
To date, the foundation estimates that they have saved the city almost $2.3 billion through their home sharing program and roughly $4.675 million through their respite care program.
Cebrettia Hinton, 87, has been hosting seniors in her home since the early 1980s. She first heard about the program from her friend Lucille Damaris following the closure of the Archer Avenue Senior Center at 92-47 165th Street, where Hinton was involved with the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults.
Hinton is the daughter of sharecroppers, and said she learned at an early age to do what she could to help her community from her parents.
“I guess it had been in my family. My parents had helped people. My father was a sharecropper and he would always have a big garden,” Hinton said. “People in the neighborhood that didn’t have vegetables to eat, he always shared what he had with them. I noticed what my parents were doing.
“From there, that was part of my makeup, and when I came here and I saw where I could help other people as well,” she added.
Over the years, she has hosted a total of around 15 men and women in her five-bedroom home, and said that while she is compensated, she doesn’t do it for the money but rather because she enjoys it.
Her home is fairly large, she said, with wide open living and dining rooms, a sun porch that she uses to mediate, read the Bible and read the newspapers. Outside, she grows a garden in the spring and flowers all around because she loves beauty.
For all those who come into her home, Hinton said she gives them free reign.
“When people come here it’s very comfortable, because at the time they are here, they are home,” she said. “I like for my people to feel that when they’re here they can go into any room and be completely satisfied.”
Another senior, who wished to remain anonymous because he is still in the workforce, said that while he was wary to join a home sharing program in the beginning, he now knows it was the right move for him.
Having lived in his own apartment for 45 years, the man said that he was holding on to his independence even though he could no longer afford to pay his rent, and that led to his eviction.
“I had a perfect storm in my personal and professional life,” the man said. “This goes back many years ago. I had a terrific job in the communications industry working for a Midwestern company with an office in Manhattan. They decided to close down the New York office, and at the same time, my mother had cancer.
“I’m an only child and my father is dead,” he continued. “So while I was offered the opportunity to move to headquarters in the Midwest, I just couldn’t move her and I had to give up a terrific job.”
While he hopes to eventually find an affordable apartment of his own, he is grateful that he was able to avoid institutionalization by taking advantage of the home sharing program offered by the foundation.
“As facile as I am with the Internet, I had no idea that this organization was out there and could help me,” he said. “At first, I had kind of dismissed it hoping for my own apartment, but this is a reality and it’s unfortunate this city has become a city for the rich or the poor, the guy in the middle has got to get squeezed out.” he said.