By Debbie Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
The 30-year-old International House building is undergoing a renovation to turn it into a modern and lively place for people in need.
Located on 607 Maynard Avenue South, the International House houses about 115 residents — most of whom live alone with little to no financial support from their families. Most are Chinese and non-English speakers. The residents are welcoming these changes to their home, that will make it more accessible for the elderly and disabled.
Nora Chan, a social worker in the Chinese community, is playing an important role as an intermediary, helping the communication between residents and the apartment management.
“I come here to check on the progress almost every single day,” she said.
The apartment manager arranged some rooms as resting areas for residents. While the construction is underway, Chan helps move residents to the designated areas to rest. She passes along any requests or complaints to the manager, overcoming the problem of language barriers.
The residents love to see Chan and they greet her with big smiles. Chiufung Pang, 70, has lived at International House for more than 20 years.
“Mrs. Chan is a loving and caring person. She has done a lot of volunteering work for the community,” Pang said.
The renovations are intended to improve the design of the apartments. For example, light switches are set too high for some people to reach. Some residents have to step on a chair, increasing the chances for a fall.
Both furniture and appliances were aging. Pang said that her refrigerator leaked. Pang is now happy with her newly repaired home and upgraded appliances. She said it has become a better and more comfortable place.
“Everything is new after the renovation. The environment is prettier and more comfortable,” Pang said with excitement. She loves inviting friends and neighbors to play Chinese Mahjong. They gather together every Thursday to catch up with one another.
New amenities will be added after the renovation, including a business center and TV room. The business center will provide two computers for residents to use. A new service coordinator was hired recently. She is fluent in Chinese and English, and she will be helping people solve problems with accessing the internet, as well as answering questions about activities, trip planning, and healthcare issues.
Construction is expected to be finished in June.
Tenants pay only about 30 percent, and the building has a long wait list. Some people have been waiting for years.
International House is owned by GHC Housing Partners — a private company that works with the government for Section 8 projects. Section 8 provides assistance to eligible low- and moderate-income families to rent private housing. The program works as a rental subsidy.
“There are a total of 12 people in our team to work with the project,” said GHC Housing Partners development coordinator Ian Bates. “Our company takes responsibility for all the expenditures in the construction. Residents do not have to pay a dime for it.”
Debbie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.