John Thomas III has lived a long and interesting life. Raised in Louisville, Mr. Thomas has been an engineer, surveyor, a proud solider in the United States Air Force Reserve, and Santa Claus. Over his 75 years, he has traveled to Mexico, Canada, and every state in the U.S. except Maine and Vermont. However, before returning to Louisville, Mr. Thomas suffered a severe back injury that extensive surgery failed to correct.
Mr. Thomas continued to work through the subsequent years as best he could, but the pain became too much to bear. He found himself on Social Security Disability and learning to live on a fixed income. The first years weren’t bad, but after his wife passed he found that paying for his medical bills and keeping a home to be increasingly difficult.
A self-proclaimed stubborn Irishman, John Thomas knew that he would have to change his living conditions but refused to give up his independence. He moved into an apartment complex for seniors that allowed him to be completely autonomous. While he had his freedom, unfortunately the apartments didn’t live up to his all of his needs and he found himself searching for a better home. When his Catholic parish mentioned that one of their old school houses was being turned into affordable senior apartments, John Thomas was one of the first in line.
Mr. Thomas is now a resident at St. Bartholomew Senior Apartments located in Louisville, KY. St. Bartholomew Senior Apartments was a partnership between Catholic Charities and Housing Partnership, Inc. The apartments are an adaptive reuse of a historic building. This means that a good portion of the building was reused to prolong the lifespan of the original structure and reduce the amount of materials and energy needed to construct the apartments. The St. Bartholomew parish was established in 1941 and the school was built in 1942. St. Bartholomew contains 24 apartments for low-income seniors. Its Silver LEED certification will bring utilities savings to the residents and lower the operating cost of the building. The final needed funding came from a substantial loan from Fahe.
“If it wasn’t for assistance with my rent and bills,” he said, “I would have to be living with one of my children. I’m sure they would make room for me, but I would put a damper on their lives. Not to mention I’m grown and I enjoy the freedom of being able to walk out of my apartment, play a game of cards, and being able to go back to my apartment and do what I want.”
Senior housing is a concern in Appalachia due to lack of available units. Apartments such as St. Bartholomew allow seniors on fixed incomes the ability to live in a quality home while receiving financial assistance. As the baby boomer generation ages, a greater number of people will be in need of such facilities. Fahe and several of our members focus on creating more affordable rental housing for the elderly in Appalachia. “I’ve been drawing social security for a bit of time now and because of this I get more than some people I know,” said Mr. Thomas. “If it wasn’t for these programs, I don’t know how people would make it. I know disabled seniors who live on as little as $300 a month. I receive more than they do, but with my medical bills, it’s all I can do to make it.”
Over the years, Fahe has collaborated on several affordable apartments for the elderly such as the Main Cross Apartments in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. Affordable apartments allow for the elderly to keep their independence while having assistance available if needed. Many seniors find this type of living to be quite acceptable. “Anyone who is capable of living on their own, should,” said Mr. Thomas. “If you are able to cook your own food and live on your, do it as long as you can. I know I’m going to.”