Community members protest conditions at senior center

Local residents express continued concern about Homer Senior Citizen center

Ongoing concerns about conditions at the Homer Senior Citizens center prompted protests on Monday and Tuesday, during which about 15 people held signs at the intersection of Pioneer Avenue and Svedlund Street demanding better general treatment for senior residents and better maintenance of the housing facilities at the center.

The demonstrations followed two public meetings, held in November 2023 and earlier this month, during which residents of the center and other members of the public spoke about their concerns regarding conditions at the facility.

Attendees at a Jan. 9 evening meeting, held at the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor Center, shared comments about what they said they noticed about food and meal deficiencies at the facility, alleged inappropriate medical attention and administrative activity and a general lack of suitable entertainment opportunities for residents at the facility. Some of the attendees were previous board members, some had parents who were once housed at the facility who have since been removed and others were just members of the public.

About 40 people attended the meeting and the group also discussed further options for action in addressing grievances, including the potential for a class action lawsuit against the facility.

At a Nov. 9 public meeting, board members of the organization heard a grievance filed with the center by Homer residents Sallie Rediske and Brent Keene against Executive Director Keren Kelley. The grievance requested that the board consider removing her from current position as executive director, and included several complaints regarding “lack of judgement or disregard for the welfare of residents.”

At the November meeting, approximately 15 additional community members were present and expressed support for the grievance.

Rediske provided comments regarding a mold infestation case that allegedly led to the eviction of a resident from her apartment at the facility and a loss of many personal and sentimental items due to contamination from the mold. Rediske referred to that HSCC resident as a “family member by choice” who has lived at the facility for 22 years.

Rediske said in the grievance that the resident’s items were so polluted that they couldn’t be cleaned and returned to the residence. Rediske also provided a photo of the resident’s skin condition alleged to be related to physical impacts of the mold. These photos were provided at the Jan. 9 meeting as well.

In addition to the mold infestation case, Rediske also expressed concern for what she said was a chronic shortage of employees at the facility which “contributes to poor building maintenance oversight,” she said.

In November, there were eight members currently on the HSCC board including Milli Martin, Mike Jimerson, Bryan Zak, Sharon Wilson, Bruce Barnes, Steve Mueller, James Hornaday and Sharm Setterquist. James Hornaday has since retired and new member Tiffany Story has joined the board.

In response to an email the Homer News sent to board president Martin, Kelley and Human Resources Director Paula Frisinger, Martin said the attorney for the facility has advised them not to provide comments. She also mentioned that if anyone would like to file a current grievance the receptionist at the facility has the forms available.