by Wes Bowers
Fremont Bulletin, March 8, 2007
City of Fremont’s Human Services Department received $300,000 in grants that will improve information access and referral services for senior citizens, it was announced at Tuesday’s Fremont City Council meeting.
The grant, to be distributed over the next two years, was awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic group devoted to improving the health and healthcare of Americans.
City council unanimously approved the grant’s acceptance.
The grant was awarded to Fremont’s Human Services Department as part of the foundation’s Fresh Ideas Initiative.
The grant, according to staff reports, will fund additional work to implement a Senior Action Plan developed by Human Services and the foundation in recent years.
It will provide training, funding and technical support to cultural and faith-based organizations to enable them to offer information and referral services in their respective communities.
The city’s Human Services Department is planning to partner with six community ethnic and faith organizations to enact a Community Ambassador Program for Seniors.
Partners in the program include Muslim Support Network, Centerville Presbyterian Church, the Taiwanese Senior Association, India Community Center, Sikhs Engaged in Volunteer Activities, and the Stanford Geriatric Education Center, staff reports state.
Volunteers from these groups will then learn how to access service information, identify eligibility requirements and link seniors to services.
Reports state that success will be determined by an increased number of vulnerable seniors linked to services and successful sustainability of the program.
“CAPS will build capacity to serve seniors in their own communities, in their own language, with their own cultural norm,” Human Services Administrator Mary Anne Mendall said. “And it will also do so where seniors live, where they worship, socialize and learn.”
Mendall said many Fremont seniors aren’t served by current senior services for a number of reasons, including lack of knowledge about what is available to them.
Additionally, seniors are physically isolated or unable to benefit from services, she said.
Also, language and cultural barriers make attaining senior services difficult for some, Mendall said.
Under the CAPS program, Mendall said each participating group would hire a site coordinator and recruit 10 volunteers.
City staff will then train the site coordinator and volunteers to provide information and resources to seniors.
They will then meet on a regular basis to share results and ideas.
In 2004, City of Fremont partnered with the Tri-City Elder Coalition, and became one of 11 sites nationwide to receive a planning grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop a comprehensive Senior Action Plan.
The Senior Action Plan was aimed to improve long-term care and supportive services for at-risk older adults in the Tri-City area.
Last year, the partnership was one of eight sites awarded a four-year implementation grant of $750,000.
“It’s not really an accident that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds friends in Fremont,” Mayor Bob Wasserman said. “In California, counties typically finance social services. In Fremont, we decided many years ago to take that on to any extent we could, and we have.”
Councilwoman Anu Natarajan said she hoped that the program would not segregate Fremont seniors in the long run.
“I think it’s a tremendous amount of effort that’s gone into structuring this,” she said. “The one thing I would like to make sure as we move forward is that it doesn’t create a silo effect of each community having to take care of its own set of seniors, and that it becomes a more integrated program.”