Arts

DeNiro film supports homeless elders

by Sue O’Connell
Contributor
Thursday Feb 16, 2012
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Being Flynn, starring Robert DeNiro, will premiere at the Kendall Square Theater on March 7. The movie is based on the memoir by Nick Flynn about his experience working with homeless people in Boston and of this father’s struggle with homelessness.

Flynn’s father was a client of Elders Living at Home Program (ELAHP), a Boston Medical Center (BMC) program. BMC is the only hospital in the nation finding permanent housing for homeless elders through ELAHP. This past December, ELAHP celebrated its 25 year anniversary and commemorated the 2,500 clients who have received housing through the program.

The March 7 screening is a fundraiser for ELAHP, and one hundred percent of the ticket sales will benefit the program. Academy Award Nominee Director Paul Weitz, Nick Flynn, and actors Paul Dano, Olivia Thirly and Lily Taylor will be attending the premiere and will be available for a brief question-and-answer session following the screening.

ELAHP provides emergency housing to elderly men and women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The program refers clients to BMC for health care and provides them with a temporary haven until a permanent home is found. ELAHP partners with the Pine Street Inn and other state agencies to meet its goal of helping clients find, secure and maintain permanent residence where they can live as independently as possible.

In 1986 when senior citizens living in Boston’s South End were being displaced due to rising housing costs and gentrification, BMC formed the ELAHP as a commitment to keep this population in their homes and communities. It was the first organization in the country to place homeless elders temporarily in public housing, and 25 years later, its mission remains the same while its focus continues to adapt to its clients’ needs.

"With the economic downturn, a new focus for us has become food security," says Eileen O’Brien, direct or ELAHP, who has been at the helm of the ELAHP since its creation. "Many of our clients can’t afford housing and food. Most are living on only $600 a month."

ELAHP staff is currently managing 60 clients. They visit the elders’ homes to check on their health and wellness and to make sure they have enough food to eat. The program is funded completely by philanthropy and government contracts.

"It has been such a privilege to serve so many remarkable and inspiring elders over the years," says O’Brien. "Most of the folks we work with have little reason to feel hopeful, yet they continue to work toward better lives for themselves. We get to see incredible transformations each year. Our clients are my heroes."

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