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Opening Remarks of Co-Chair Ellen Feingold
The Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility
Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century

January 14th, 2002
Miami, FL


We're going to open the hearing of the Congressional Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Care Facilities for Seniors in the 21st Century and I want to welcome you all here. It is lovely to see so many faces here.

How many people here live in the Robert Sharp Towers? (Audience responds.)

CO-CHAIRPERSON FEINGOLD: Fabulous. It's wonderful to see you here. It is wonderful to be in this beautiful, beautiful building.

You live in a building that should make your federal government proud and it should make your sponsors proud. It is a beautiful building, it is well maintained. You are well serviced and it's a pleasure for the Commission to be here. As I think many of you know, our Commission was created by an act of Congress in 1999. It was crafted in the Subcommittee on Housing of the Bank -- of the House Banking and Currency Committee, which was led by Congressman Rick Lazio and Congressman Barney Frank. Our Commission is basically their child.

They were consumed with the fact that we were not prepared, we as a country, were not prepared to deal with the growing number of seniors living longer, and hopefully, living well. But we are not prepared as a country to make that happen, and that's why our Commission was established.

Now, we've come to Miami for a number of reasons.

Number one, that the largest -- the largest concentration of elders in the nation lives here in southern Florida, so this is a very good place to see what needs to be done and what is being done.

We're here to listen to your suggestions, your experience.

We want to know what you see as needed and what you see as good ways of meeting those needs.

Another reason we came is that we had hoped that we would be able to join HUD Secretary Mel Martinez on his home territory.

It didn't work; his schedule wouldn't permit it, but you should be proud that you have a HUD Secretary from here and we are looking to his support for our recommendations.

Lastly, our previous hearings were in Ohio, New York State, the Southwestern corner of the United States, San Diego. So now we're in the Southeastern corner of the United States, Miami.

And you are a place of enormous diversity. All kinds of people live here with all kinds of different approaches to the cultural needs of the elders. So we are here to listen and to learn.

I want to thank the Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation, the sponsors of this wonderful development, for their hospitality in hosting this hearing.

And again, it's wonderful to see so many tenants here.

Now, let me introduce my fellow Commissioners.

I am -- well, I'll start with myself. I'm Ellen Feingold. I am the Co-Chair of this Commission and one seat over from me is Nancy Hooks, who is my fellow Co-Chair.

Now, starting down at the other end is Harry -- at your left -- is Harry Thomas from Seattle. Jim Sykes from Madison, Wisconsin, Jane Baumgarten from Oregon.

We'll get to Jim in a bit, it skipped.

Down at the far end, Diana McIver from Texas.

John Erickson from Maryland and Palm Beach, a legal resident of Palm Beach.

Rita Poundstone from Colorado.

And Steve Protulis, who is the head of the -- what do you call it, EHDOC -- the sponsoring corporation for Robert Sharp Towers, who is also a resident here in Florida, although we tend to think of him from Washington, D.C., but that's another story.

We are very fortunate as a Commission.

Virtually, all of our Commission members have had some real knowledge and experience of this field. Some of us are providers of housing like the Robert Sharp Homes.

Others are providers of privately sponsored housing.

Others are developers. Some are in the private sector, some are non-profits, some are of the government.

But we are all, all concerned about the problems that are ahead for this country and committed to finding solutions that we can recommend to Congress at the end of June when our report is due. So again, we're looking for solutions.

We've already received a major research report from Dr. Steve Golant of the University of Florida. That report's findings confirm and even exceed the numbers, the numbers that we have heard over many years about the burgeoning population of elders.

But they document for the first time who those elders are. You should know close to one-half, very close to half of Americans over 62 have incomes that match the incomes of the lowest quarter of Americans.

Half of elders have incomes that match the incomes of the lowest quarter of incomes in the United States.

So, seniors, the myth that seniors as a whole are rich and able to take care of themselves, the numbers don't hold that out. The numbers suggest that we have a problem.

Over a sixth of America's elders have very serious housing needs that don't have anything to do with income, that they are simply living in bad housing, inadequate housing, housing that does not meet their needs.

That's just for starters. The information that Dr. Golant and presented to us will, we think, form a very stark case for the recommendations of the Commission.

Now, I personally have a mantra about housing, about where you live. All of the other programs, your health programs, your prescription drugs programs, your mental health programs, they don't mean anything if you don't have a decent place to live.

The basic, basic thing that all of us need and particularly all other people need, is a decent place to live. That's the basis on which everything else gets built. So I feel passionately about the work of this Commission and the importance of its results.

That is the beginning point for our work. Now, I would like at this point to acknowledge any public officials who may have joined us that I don't know about.

Okay. Ken has promised me that if anybody comes in that should be introduced to you -- who just raised their hand? Oh, please.

CYNTHIA STAFFORD: (Inaudible.) CO-CHAIRPERSON FEINGOLD: I am so pleased to have you. Thank you so much. What's your name?


CO-CHAIRPERSON FEINGOLD: Hi, Cynthia. Thank you for coming.

Anybody else?

This was a representative of Congressman of Carrie Meek who was unable to be here. Her name is Cynthia Stafford.

And for the audience, we are transcribing this entire hearing, but if you don't have a microphone, they can't hear. So we'll have to repeat or you can come to a mike. Okay.

Now, I'd like to start off with our keynote speaker, who has joined us all the way from, if you can believe it, the opposite corner of the United States: Alaska.

We are joined by Keith Campbell of Seward, Alaska, who is a member and Chair of the AARP Board of Governors. He was elected to serve in this role from the year 2000 to 2002, and he has a long and illustrious history with AARP as a leader in their health issues team, their state legislative committees and a whole range of things involved with the health of seniors.

He also chaired the Alaska state legislative committee. Before he retired in 1990, he was the administrator and CEO of Seward General Hospital for nineteen years. And before that, it turns that out that, you know, Alaska's a place like Florida, most people in Alaska came from somewhere else.

Keith came from Iowa where he was the Administrator of Peoples Memorial Hospital in Independence. Please join me in welcoming Keith Campbell, and we look forward to hearing your remarks, Keith.

The page was last modified on January 30, 2002