Thousands of seniors draw for the future

Nick Gharibian pressed his face against a window at the Glendale headquarters of a low-income housing organization on Wednesday, holding a neatly folded letter with “C1639” printed on it.

It was one of 3,848 numbers included in a lottery to get one of just 1,200 spots on the waiting list for Casa De La Paloma, a senior housing complex on Kenwood Street in Glendale operated by, formerly known as Southern California Presbyterian Homes.

Once on the waiting list, it can still take months or years to secure a vacancy at the residential complex. But the distant possibility was enough for the lottery applicants.

“It is hard, the renting situation in Glendale and Burbank,” said Gharibian, 64, who worked as a hairdresser before losing his job nearly two years ago due to health problems. “It is over $1,200 for one bedroom.”

The lottery marked the first time since 2004 that the waiting list for Casa De La Paloma was opened, said Jacqueline Seegobin, director of affordable housing for the nonprofit. The 167-unit complex offers on-site support including housekeeping and social services, as well as a built-in community of neighbors and friends.

To qualify, an individual must be at least 62 years old and fall below the federal poverty line. Disabled adults — at least 18 years old — are also eligible. Rent is charged on a sliding scale based on income.

Founded in 1955, operates 25 low-income housing complexes in California and Texas as part of its mission to provide environments for seniors that are physically, emotionally and socially stimulating.

Most of their residents depend on Social Security, which can be as little as $10,000 a year, Seegobin said. They struggle to afford the basics — housing, food and medicine.

“Particularly here in Glendale, our senior population is mostly immigrants,” Seegobin said. “They are coming here at a later stage in life where they have not been able to access work and create funds to sustain themselves.”

The need for affordable housing far outstrips the supply, officials said. They received more than 4,000 applications for the Casa De La Paloma waiting list, with 3,848 meeting the qualifications for the lottery.

“The need is increasing every year, particularly in the financial crisis we have seen in the last three years,” Seegobin said. “What we are noticing in the new trend is that the market is being flooded by people who had their own homes who are now foreclosing, losing jobs [and] finding that their savings are depleted. All of a sudden they realize they need affordable housing.”

All those who participated in the lottery will be notified by mail about its outcome. But those who make it on to the list will have an average wait of five years before they can actually move in, officials said.

“An apartment only becomes vacant when someone dies, or someone just moved to a nursing home, or a family says, ‘We will take them home for the last few years,’” Seegobin said.

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