Changing Lives with Home Safe Home
Keeping seniors living at home longer, more comfortably, and independently is the core mission of MPTF’s Home Safe Home program, which provides free home safety evaluations and free or low-cost modifications for homes. And at the heart of this valuable program are two of the MPTF’s most determined and resourceful project coordinators, Kym Hall and Holly Spiegel.
Steady and thoughtful, Hall started with MPTF by spending a few hours a week calling retirees who were homebound. Soon after, she sat on the Board of the non-profit Rebuilding Together’s Southern California and Los Angeles chapters, who were then partnering with the MPTF for home safety projects. Ten years ago, she jumped at the chance to start the Fund’s own home safety program. Less than a half-dozen evaluations were conducted each year when she began, and now the Home Safe Home program conducts approximately 200 assessments per year.
“The very first project I organized by myself made me realize how much we change lives,” she says. “We walked into an elderly gentleman’s house and the floor caved in. By the time we were done, his house was a home again.”
Most of the Home Safe Home program clients are referred by social workers, doctors, family, or fellow industry members. The majority is over the age of 65, and some have disabilities. Their homes range from houses, apartments, condominiums, and mobile homes to assisted living facilities. Anyone in the entertainment industry qualifies for an assessment; family members of those in the industry also qualify.
Nurturing Independent Living
Energetic on a grand scale, Spiegel’s background is in architecture and design-- so it’s natural for her to assess environmental spaces as well as their inherent livability and functionality. She’s been a part of Home Safe Home since 2010.
She explains that during an assessment she works her way front to back through the property looking to make suggestions both inside and outside of the home. “I work from the mailbox at the curb all the way to the backyard wall,” Spiegel says. She’s looking for myriad safety issues, from the need for handrails in bathtubs to loose rugs that might cause a fall, to nightlights, exterior ramps, and walkways.
“Most importantly, we serve as advocates,” says Hall. Even when Home Safe Home cannot directly address a client’s needs, the program can still help. “I’m extra tenacious and creative in finding solutions and equipment as well as reaching out and finding resources, wherever they may be,” echoes Spiegel.
Home Safe Home is often the first MPTF service for clients, and it can serve as a jumping off point to many of the MPTF’s other valuable services, such as Financial Aid and Elder Connection.
Home Safe Home doesn’t only address physical safety issues. As older adults approach some cognitive decline, they begin to cocoon, says Spiegel. “We can break them out of that. A revamped living situation can encourage them to have visitors, which creates an opportunity for socialization.” Something as simple as brighter lighting can greatly improve a client’s psychological outlook.
Client lifestyles and professional history also figure in assessments. One client, an animator, could no longer sit at a desk due to physical limitations. Spiegel helped track down a table that could sit in his bed, and his ability to draw comfortably was restored. It was a small modification that changed his emotional well being immensely.
At the time of MPTF’s own 95th anniversary in 2016, Home Safe Home had already passed its own benchmark: the program successfully completed its 1,000th home assessment. MPTF’s new Home Safe Home van also improves the speed and efficiency in which clients can get assistance, with Hall and Spiegel often seen behind the wheel.
Looking to the future, Hall says she’d like Home Safe Home to become even more visible in the entertainment industry and expand its reach into more diverse communities, which includes participating in community outreach efforts to newer and smaller entertainment companies and faith-based organizations. Spiegel shared other growth opportunities for the program including a disaster preparedness component that is currently in development. Ultimately, they would like every MPTF client to have a home safety assessment.
“At the end of the day,” says Hall, “I go home and I feel like I have changed someone’s life. We’re about changing people’s lives; it’s that simple.”
Home Safe Home offers free home safety evaluations and provides free or low-cost modifications for large-scale home revitalizations as well as smaller modifications for homes of all sizes. The program responds to important home safety needs and strives to help people continue living at home longer, more comfortably and independently. Learn More, or call the MPTF intake line at 323.634.3866.
See more photos from Home Safe Home's 1,000th in our Facebook gallery.