The West Hartford Housing Authority manages 350 units of housing that includes elderly or disabled individuals, and the CEO has commended staff for keeping all properties free of COVID-19.
By Ronni Newton
There are 500-600 residents living in West Hartford Housing Authority units – more than half of whom are either seniors and/or persons with disabilities for whom COVID-19 could be especially deadly – but there has not been a single case in any of the properties since the pandemic began, CEO George Howell said.
The credit, he said, goes to staff who have worked hard to implement the state’s protocols for assisted living facilities, and taken other above-and-beyond measures to keep residents safe from day one, when the pandemic first loomed as a threat.
“I am so proud of and grateful for the manner in which our staff demonstrated professionalism, empathy and devotion for our residents as they worked tirelessly to keep everyone safe,” said Howell.
“We’re not assisted living – it’s all independent living – but we do have a lot of seniors, some of whom are medically frail and have medical assistants coming in, some who even stay overnight,” Howell said.
Other than residents, service providers – following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – have been among the only people permitted to enter the premises at any of the five properties, which include Alfred E. Plant, The Goodwin, Elm Grove Apartments, 616 New Park, and The Faxon (formerly known as The Elms). The units are a mix of workforce, market-rate, and affordable housing, many filled by seniors as well as veterans.
“We have erred on the side of safety, keeping the folks as controlled as we can, especially for our senior facilities,” said Howell.
“They are on lockdown … and as a result people are staying safe,” said Howell.
“Our resident services coordinators have been helping, and the town has been very good about providing food,” said Howell. Meals are being delivered to seniors and others in need, and medications are being delivered as well.
“We have worked closely with them, and much to my pleasure, many of the residents, especially at Plant, are letting us know if someone needs help,” said Howell of the development for seniors on Farmington Avenue. “Alfred E. Plant is a neighborhood – it’s a neighborhood that cares – and they are watching out for each other.”
Visitors, including family members were strongly discouraged, and non-essential maintenance was delayed as well. The number of residents permitted in laundry rooms has also been limited.
Residents who live in properties like 616 New Park and The Goodwin do leave to go to work, or to the grocery store, but the fitness center and community rooms continue to be off limits, and gatherings are not permitted.
Additional building cleaning measures were implemented to include daily wipe-downs and disinfection of all commonly touched surfaces, like elevator buttons, railings, and door handles. Residents are requested to wear masks or other types of face-coverings in the hallways and any other areas outside of their individual units, to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, and to frequently wash their hands or use hand-sanitizer.
Those who travel have been asked to self-monitor for 14 days after returning, and to contact a doctor if they are not feeling well.
Residents and staff were also kept informed of free testing sites and dates.
The West Hartford Housing Authority has made information available about free COVID-19 testing to all residents, and thus far there have not been any positive tests among residents – or staff.
Even though the state has been opening up, restrictions have remained in place, and Howell said he believes the virus will threaten for quite some time. “We are not going to let our guard down, allow the virus the opportunity to spread, or put our residents and staff at risk.”
The West Hartford Housing Authority is currently in the midst of renovating The Faxon (1078 New Britain Ave.), and Howell said the first phase should be completed by mid-July. COVID-19 has made things slightly more complicated – with the need to keep people safe through the construction as well as from the pandemic – and caused some delays, “but we will be making it up and will finish on time in 2021,” he said. Residents are being temporarily relocated within the complex as their units are being updated.
Howell said the Housing Authority’s 22 full- and part-time staff, most of whom have been working remotely, have been “extraordinary.” No one was furloughed or laid off due to the pandemic.
In addition to the properties owned by the West Hartford Housing Authority, the organization manages 3,000 units of housing choice vouchers throughout West Hartford.
The West Hartford Housing Authority will soon be adding another property to its portfolio. Howell said the architectural drawings are complete for 540 New Park, a transformative and transit-oriented development which will be built on the site of the former ACME Auto at the intersection of New Park Avenue and the Oakwood Avenue Extension.
Howell said they are hopeful about closing on the financing son, and expect construction to begin in October. “We’re really excited about it … it will make a dramatic change to what has been there for years,” he said.
The project is scheduled to be complete in early 2022.
Visit the West Hartford Housing Authority website for further information.
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