By Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 09:38:00 PM

Health, housing and transportation are the three biggies for often-powerless senior citizens as well as for many boomers and disabled persons too. Many of the questions I receive involve housing. The problem isn't always getting a rental place or getting a voucher. Sometimes it’s getting peace and quiet and security while in that housing. Fear that activist response may lead to retaliation, losing one’s voucher and or to the landlord’s opting out of Section 8 inhibits some tenants’ attempts to cope with landlord, police, and BHA indifference to, or rejection of, dangerous conditions of harassment, theft, intrusion, contamination and noise.

Here are a few suggestions for coping with those dangerous conditions of harassment, theft, intrusion, contamination and noise, which are often “landlord problems.”  

A personal computer (PC) is helpful. Consult the public library and senior center about learning how-to. Log your experiences and prepare a document describing them. It’s depressing but essential. Keep a diary-like log. Back up your PC file. Keep a file copy of everything. 

Notify the landlord both by telephone and in writing of any problems and of repairs needed and provide her/him with a reasonable time to fix the problem. After you speak with the landlord, send a summary of your understanding of that conversation to her/him with clear copy to the relevant authorities, e.g. HUD, BHA. (‘cc’ is generally considered clear copy; ‘bc’ blind copy.

Consider filing an elder abuse charge. Abuse occurring anywhere other than a long-term care facility should be reported to Alameda County Adult Protective Services agency. 

Report illegal housing conditions (e.g. noise, harassment, apparent theft, break-in) to local police. Get a police report

Contact your City Council member. S/he may be willing and able to advise. If you don’t know in what numbered-Council district you live, call the City Clerk’s office and find out; also request the name of “your” Councilmember and her/his phone number and email address. A one-on-one conference by appointment with her/him is preferable to a phone call.  

If you are a Section 8 tenant, contact your BHA counselor. Again, a one-on-one consult, by appointment with her/him, is preferable to a phone call.  

The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, known as “the rent board,” is at 2125 Milvia Street, northeast corner of Milvia and Center Streets, downtown Berkeley. (510) 981-7368. “The mission of the Rent Stabilization Board is to regulate residential rent increases in the City of Berkeley and to protect against unwarranted rent increases and evictions and to provide a fair return to property owners. The Board works to ensure compliance with legal obligations relating to rental housing; and to advance the housing policies of the City with regard to low and fixed income persons, minorities, students, disabled, and the aged.” Counselors provide information to tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities under the Berkeley Rent Ordinance and California Rental Housing Law. To contact a Housing Counselor by e-mail: Drop-in counseling is available, or by phone at 510-981- 7368. But keep in mind that Section 8 housing is exempt from most provisions of Berkeley's rent control law.  

Founded in 1972, The Center for Independent Living, Inc. is a services and advocacy organization run by and for people with disabilities. 510-841-4776 Voice. 510-356-2662 Video Phone. 510-848-3101 TTY.  

The Berkeley Tenants Union, at 2022 Blake, has recently shown signs of revitalization. Mainly for eviction cases. (510) 982-6696. 

It’s quite possible that these resources will respond “take it up with the landlord.” Do it. 



"Cost of caring for elderly, disabled Californians to rise," by Chris Megerian (Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2013).  

The Los Angeles Times reviews Last Tango in Halifax as the fall’s best new PBS show. It stars Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi as former flames, now a widow and widower with adult children, who reconnect. Sunday evenings. A bonus is the James Herriot-Yorkshire countryside. Halifax is a Minster town, within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale in West Yorkshire, England. It has an urban area population of 82,056 in the 2001 Census

Seventy-six year old Dustin Hoffman has been honored for taking the plunge into motion picture directing. His Quartet (not referring to Merchant-Ivory’s 1981 Quartet ) is one of the new films that target a 50+ age audience. Beecham House is a gossipy retirement home for musicians who won’t retire. The latest arrival is the former singing partner of the residents, played by 79 year old Maggie Smith. Hoffman’s Quartet is in the library’s DVD collection. Based on Ronald Harwood's stage play of the same title. 

After an early clip from the movie Set for Life was posted online, director Susan Sipprelle was invited to testify before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in Washington, given 8 minutes to make her presentation, including a 2-minute video. No one paid much attention, she says. “The senators were walking in and out the whole time.” 

The 2012 documentary concerns one of the lasting effects of the Great Recession-- the economic spiral downward of the American middle class. It is not political, offers no solutions. Sipprelle contends that no group has been harder hit than the boomer generation, men and women in the prime of their working lives. Three Baby Boomers who believed they were set for life struggle to recover from the devastating impact of losing their jobs in the Great Recession. Now older than 50, they strive to hang onto their homes, health insurance and hope. (There’s no mention of all the middle-class American seniors who never owned homes, health insurance, or hope on which to hang!)  

Charlie Rose recently interviewed Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave on the subject of their Unfinished Song (not the 1983 biography of Chilean composer Victor Jara.) Grumpy pensioner Arthur honors his recently deceased wife's passion for performing by joining the unconventional local choir to which she belonged. The process helps him build bridges with his estranged son. Two popular themes are the surly older protagonist whose heart begins to thaw out, and the senior-citizens’ chorus belting out unlikely hits.