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March 2024

You have heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” – the same can certainly be said for our older, most vulnerable residents.

Despite the availability of safety nets and wrap-around services in Birmingham and Oakland County, many residents in need hesitate to ask for assistance, or simply do not know where to turn.

Compounding the problem – many of us who are very busy keeping our own families on track may not recognize when our neighbors could use a little help.

Our area is viewed by many as a place where residents do not need assistance to live comfortably. But in fact, according to the 2022 US Census, 5.5 percent of Birmingham residents are at or below the poverty line. Most often, these are our seniors who are on fixed incomes while their expenses continue to rise.

Just one recent example–a few months ago, the Birmingham city attorney made a call that set into motion a very transformative action plan. She called Stuart Sherman, former city commissioner and attorney, about a resident on the verge of losing his home due to back taxes. Stuart did not hesitate to reach out to this resident, but quickly realized his problems went much deeper.

This older resident was indeed about to lose his home, but he had also been living without running water, heat, or an income to even cover his most basic needs. When I first met this gentleman, I asked what his most immediate need was. His answer, a hot shower.

Seems basic and simple enough for most of us, but not all of us.

Stuart Sherman is a good friend to Next and has supported our work in the community for years. He was familiar with the services we offer and together we tackled many of this resident’s most pressing issues. First and foremost, Stuart arranged for the back taxes to be paid through Next’s Foundation for Senior Residents and then quickly filed paperwork for a homestead exception for future filings. He also applied for and received Oakland County grants for income qualified residents.

Then we continued down the list. Jay Reynolds, an adept Next computer volunteer and board of directors member, worked with the resident to resolve Social Security issues so he could begin to receive his earned payments. Through Birmingham’s Community Development Block Grant program administered through Next, repairs were made to his furnace and plumbing, and arrangements were made to renew his driver’s license so he could find employment. All the while, Stuart was making frequent visits and handling several day-to-day concerns that cropped up.

Thankfully, this case ended well but we know there are many senior residents that could use a little support to make their daily lives better.

This is where the “village” comes in.

Please look out for your neighbors. If you see an older resident that could benefit from the services that Next and the city can provide, please help them reach out, or call us, we will take it from there.

A society can be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable.

By looking out for each other, together we can make Birmingham a wonderful place to grow up – and grow old.

Cris Braun is Executive Director of Birmingham Next


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