This past January, three North Andover seniors, Walter Hamilton, 78, George Kettinger, Jr., 79, and Francis Kort, 68, were murdered in their public housing complex at Foulds Terrace.
In response to this tragedy, at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) filed legislation, House Bill 1094, which would establish a task force on elderly and disabled persons residing in public housing.
The task force would advise the Secretaries of Housing and Economic Development and Health and Human Services on best practices to ensure the safety and welfare of the elderly and disabled in public housing, including investigating efforts to maximize overall facility and individual apartment safety and security.
The task force would report to the General Court and chairs of the Joint Committees on Elder Affairs and Mental Health and Substance Abuse the results of its investigation by 2016.
DiZoglio’s bill has endorsements from the North Andover and Haverhill Housing Authorities, as well as Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, who presented testimony at the legislation’s public hearing held on July 14 before the Joint Committee on Housing.
“As an experienced administrator in public and affordable housing and long-standing advocate for elderly persons and persons with disabilities, I understand the complex needs and issues that arise when mixed populations coexist in apartment settings and housing authority developments,” said Cathy Hoog, Executive Director of the North Andover Housing Authority. “With the close consideration and discussions of the proposed task force in this bill, more solutions can be reviewed and considered. It is necessary that we have these discussions and more importantly, provide solutions.”
“The potential for this study to address the safety needs of the elderly population and provide means to resolve issues and concerns to ensure quality of life for elders living in subsidized housing is a key concern for ESMV and we support Representative DiZoglio’s bill to explore this issue further,” said Rosanne DiStefano, Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley.
“I believe the study called for in House Bill 1094 will help to clarify some of the assumptions about the characteristics of the population of individuals in so-called elderly housing who are living with disabilities and/or disabling conditions,” said Ellen Walker, a North Andover resident who resides at the Foulds Terrace complex. “The entire population who live in elderly and disabled housing is made up of people who are vulnerable, and the safety of all tenants should be a priority.”
“Passage of H1094 will strengthen the Commonwealth’s housing authorities’ mission to provide safe, decent and sanitary housing to the low income populations that we serve,” said Joseph A. Hart, Executive Director of the Haverhill Housing Authority. “We can do better to protect the safety and welfare of our residents. This bill will begin a long-overdue discussion of the issues that arise in mixed population housing developments.”
“This bill is the first step in what I hope will be a comprehensive effort by citizens, in North Andover and across the Commonwealth, to protect our many seniors and disabled persons residing in public housing,” said DiZoglio.