WENATCHEE — On Mondays and Fridays, it’s coffee. They gather in the common room and pour it from a pair of white coffee pots in the corner.
Wednesdays are for potlucks and everyone brings a dish. Saturdays are for bingo.
The schedule is consistent at Emerson Manor, a subsidized housing facility in the heart of Wenatchee for seniors and people with disabilities. But for many residents, the manor’s stability comes from more than just the event schedule.
Residents’ rent is capped at 30% of their income and the rest is subsidized by funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
There are six of these buildings run by the housing authority in Chelan and Douglas counties. Combined, they have 182 total units and all are in high demand. There are now 527 applications on the waiting list.
America’s aging population and the housing crisis in Wenatchee are both contributing to the increased demand, said Alicia McRae, executive director of the Housing Authority in Chelan County and the City of Wenatchee.
“Have we felt the crunch? Yes. We’ve seen our waiting lists grow and more people in our offices in the past five years,” she said. “... The senior population is growing with each year so clearly our waiting list will grow as the population ages. They’re calling it the ‘Silver Tsunami.’”
Jeannene Nipp, 75, was on the list for seven months before she got a room in Emerson Manor.
Nipp moved to Wenatchee in 2012 and her life since has been a rollercoaster of housing instability: She’s moved six times in seven years.
She used to live in Indianapolis, near a raceway called the Speedrome. At night, if she had her windows down, she could hear the cars whip around the quarter-mile track.
Later in life, Nipp and her late husband moved in with her daughter, which is “not always a good idea,” she said.
She ended up separating from her husband and came to stay with a friend in Wenatchee who she met on Facebook.
“The situation between my daughter and I became very strained,” she said. “So I came out here to visit a friend. Actually, I didn’t know her very well in person; it was a woman I met over the internet.”
After staying with that friend for a few months, she started dating someone and moved in with him.
“I met a gentleman,” she said. “I met a guy and stayed with him for three years until he passed away.”
After that, she stayed with another friend for a while, before finally finding a room she could rent.
“It was almost everything I was getting from Social Security at the time,” she said. “I think I had $250 left over every month after I paid the rent.”
Those years of uncertainty were filled with “stress, a lot of stress” for Nipp, she said. “At one point I did actually call some women’s shelters and get phone numbers in case I needed to go that way.”
Then, finally, Nipp’s name moved to the top of the waiting list for Emerson Manor.
“I had been putting in applications and finally I got the call saying there was an opening here,” she said. “So I came in for an interview and I was very happy I did.”
Nipp has now lived in the building for two years. She enjoys the convenience — there’s a Safeway and a clinic just a walk away — but more than anything she’s happy there was a way she could stay in Wenatchee, she said.
“The part of Indiana I lived in, it is just incredibly flat. Your view will be stopped by buildings or trees or barns. There aren’t any mountains, there aren’t even any hills in the part of Indiana I’m from,” she said. “It’s just amazing here. Sometimes when I’m riding on the bus, I just look at the scenery and I think about how awesome, how beautiful it is out here.”