Narrative Description of the Activities of Lazarus Living Inc., by Dr. Timothy P. Walbridge, MD
As a practicing housecall physician in the Indianapolis metropolitan area for the last 10 years, I have become more aware of the elderly and disabled population living in the streets in Naptown. Determined to make a difference with my expertise, I began researching the problem, available services, and possible solutions. This led me to what the State of Indiana refers to as 'Adult Family Care Homes', which are usually private homes that can accommodate up to 4 adults that are unable to complete the activities of daily living independently due to mental and/or physical disability. I have spent 7 years planning, developing, and implementing this mission as a second "job", when I wasn't busy with my young family and working as a practicing outpatient gerontologist.
Before joining my current medical group last year, I was a solo practitioner in Indianapolis. I had never needed a building in order to practice housecall medicine, but there was an opportunity for cheap real estate. I purchased a roughly 1500 square foot building and neighboring lot in 2012 to begin this process of acting on this idea, costing about $25,000. The building is over 100 years old, it is in a federal "Promised Zone" (and the local Indianapolis equivalent - 'Great Places 2020'), and many developers would have probably have razed it. Since then, several projects have taken place to ready the space for our version of the 'Adult Family Care Home'. Once the building rehabilitation is complete, we will begin our core charitable mission of housing the elderly and/or disabled homeless on a long term basis. 3 of the 6 planned rehabilitation projects have been completed, which are required for State certification. We are currently in Phase 4, which is 100% funded. The main structural portion of this phase has been completed by a contractor. Volunteers are currently building the frames for the interior walls. Phase 5, which we have fundraised for partially, will be electric/plumbing/HVAC contractors, and phase 6 will be furnishing and final outfitting. The majority of the work from 2012 to 2015 was demolition, as the building was gutted to its frame. This demolition work was done by myself and several other volunteers. I did pay several people with my personal funds (I would estimate 5 or 6 people) nominal amounts, in order to hasten demolition. New security windows were installed in 2014. This work was done by myself and volunteers, though the custom high quality glass and window frames were expensive. However, this was done because we were having problems with break-ins on a consistent basis. Once the windows went in, the break-ins have gone from weekly to 3 times, but those were door breaches. We have had 4 windows broken, and the replacement cost for each pane has been $200-400, depending on the size. Even though shattered, there was no breach of the building due to their design (kind of similar to auto glass). Much of the building's brick facade had sagging portions, and significant masonry work was done by a contractor to correct this problem in the Summer of 2015. Since then, the exterior of the building has been painted, and a new roof water drainage system was installed. This was done by myself and other volunteers. My former practice invested about $35,000 into the rehabilitation of the building until Lazarus Living was officially formed, 8/17/15. Since taking over control, Lazarus Living has spent about $16,000 continuing this construction project. The money was used to repair a hole in our building after a car crashed through it, painting the building, and hiring the structural contractor. This property will be donated to Lazarus Living, though the official transfer is still awaiting a commercial appraisal. In addition to this significant monetary investment, most of the actual physical labor has been done by myself and friends on a volunteer basis.
I would estimate that I have spent 25% of my total work time completing phases 1-3 of the rehabilitation process and other founding activities. I would also estimate that between 450-500 hours of manual labor were volunteered by other people thus far. There are other unaccounted for efforts that we are working towards improved transparency and gratitude for their assistance in the advancement of our mission. Our initial fundraising to date has been limited to social media outreach, but we are quickly approaching $20,000 raised since our inception, 08/17/15.
We have two other people joining me for our first official Board of Directors, though there were about 10 interim Directors that helped guide me through those initial phases including design, legal, financial and nursing considerations. Our new Secretary of the Board is Misty Soler. She was one of the first nurses that I met when I moved to Indianapolis. She runs her own geriatric management business and founded and runs a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as well doing the same services for poor people. If my parents ever needed help, she would be the one that I would want to care for them. Our Vice Chairman is Chris Redmond, who also founded a 501(c)(3) organization focused on geriatric physical therapy with a focus on technology education. I also serve on this organization's Board as Medical Director. Chris works for a group of skilled nursing facilities, is in a leadership position at IGS, and has long been involved in many different areas of geriatric healthcare. Our Board is committed to providing their professional services on a charitable basis in order to further the mission of Lazarus Living Incorporated. We are planning on creating several new Committees at our next Board meeting.
The ultimate plan is to create a decentralized retirement community for elderly and disabled persons, once expansion beyond our inaugural home is possible. The care model will be based on several crucial factors, which will be publicly available. The family model will be central to our success. Thus, each family member (formerly homeless) will have modified expectations in which they can contribute to the "household" and larger community. We hope to find those that are more functional after a bit of transitional assistance, simply needing a helping hand back to independent living. We plan on employing the more capable and willing as caregivers. Through education and enhanced access to social services, we expect to find homeless people who are able to re-enter the workforce in gainful employment. Also, lifestyle will be individually tailored to suit the interests and desires of the member. We will attempt to prove that better medical care can be delivered more cheaply, when compared with similar patients residing in skilled nursing care or assisted living environments. I am hopeful that research institutions such as Indiana University will study our model exhaustively, which would also further our charitable contribution to society through the scientific exploration and advancement of elderly care models. If the model can be verified by data at our initial building, the plan would be to expand to other inexpensive houses in close proximity. When the model is perfected, further expansion into the rest of the state and country would seem appropriate. Fundraising efforts will always give priority to our caregiver employees over expansion to new homes.
Although there are many 'Adult Family Care Homes' licensed to operate in Indiana, there are none that combine the nonprofit vision and medical expertise of our Board of Directors. As discussed above, the relationship between the organization and our members will be primarily modeled on the family unit but also the hotel hospitality industry.
Lazarus Living Inc's purpose is to decrease homelessness in the elderly and disabled population by offering a structured living environment capable of providing adequate nutrition/hydration/hygiene/clothing, accessing all appropriate social services, ameliorating medical problems, and restoring human dignity. The caregivers that we will hire, that volunteer, or access through home health care agencies will deliver primary caregiving 24 hours per day at our newly renovated building. We will provide members with housing (including electric, water, heating/cooling, Internet access, telephone, TV, private suite/physical address, and caregivers), personalized nutrition, medical care, and spiritual guidance free of charge. Any benefits due to the members of Lazarus Living Inc., including but not limited to Social Security benefits, shall be used for the house operating expenses on a monthly contractual basis with each individual. If members are found to be legally incompetent, we will pursue court appointed guardianship.
Our caregivers will be afforded an educational program which is being hosted by a local Community Development Organization. There will be abundant opportunities for economic and professional advancement for our caregiver employees and volunteers. Our current plan includes hiring at least 4 full time caregivers, and funding their benefits and salaries of $15-20/hour will be the focus of our fundraising once our initial building is closer to occupancy. We are also planning on launching a geriatric focused series of podcasts to compliment this public caregiving education program. Thus far, Chris Redmond and I have imagined over 100 geriatric themes that we would like to pursue. We will be fundraising for the costs associated with utilities, food, supplies, and clothing. Our hope is that our furnishings and medical equipment will be obtained on a donation basis. Our Board of Directors will continue to be unpaid. Once we have members, we will be able to access financial support and broad services from Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security/Disability, and the state Family Social Services Administration.
Lazarus Living Inc. is owned by the public and will remain a vocal advocate for the rehabilitation and re-occupancy of neighborhoods that are otherwise vacant. There has a rush to expand housing options for an aging population with new construction, but we believe that many can be accommodated comfortably using our existing infrastructure. With public service being at the core of our mission, the organization will continue to work on neighborhood aesthetic improvements and encourage future residents to utilize their personal skills to enhance our local community.