Stop Bullying Coalition
Peabody, MA 01960-0841
Bullying Among Older Adults can offer important lessons to test in multifamily subsidized and public housing for elderly and disabled. A review of Bonifas on bullying:
Robin P. Bonifas et. al., Bullying Among Older Adults: How to Recognize and Address an Unseen Epidemic, (Baltimore:Health Professions Press, 2016).
I will focus on the valuable lessons that Bullying Among Older Adults can offer in multifamily subsidized and public housing for elderly and disabled. In multifamily subsidized housing for the elderly and the disabled, bullying is nearly everywhere, but in only a few cases do we find a bullying-free environment. Typically there may be a mixture of ages and backgrounds, and very limited support services, and sometimes lax management. Worse, at times management and staff, including social workers, may themselves bully residents, allow and enable residents to use bullying tactics, and even join in mobbing by collaborating actively with residents.
Bullying Among Older Adults covers residential institutional settings with professional staff such as nursing, social work, gerontology, and psychology. Bonifas is a leader in the understanding and prevention of bullying among elderly patients, based on her many years of service in chronic care and psychiatric facilities, focused on improving the psychosocial care of patients and their families. Bonifas presents a comprehensive overview of the subject—how to recognize bullying, how to understand the causes of bullying behavior, how to intervene, and how to enable staff and residents to work together to create a healthy community. She has assembled a group of contributors with expertise and together they present a useful overview of current understanding of bullying and a variety of intervention approaches to address a problem that affects so many elderly residential settings. Based on this book, an infographic presents some of the evidence on the epidemic prevalence, reality, and impact of elderly bullying. http://www.healthpropress.com/pdf/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Bullying-A…
Bonifas presents “a framework for anti-bullying interventions” that is informed by the need for staff to engage with residents as partners in developing a program that addresses their expressed needs. She shows the value of designing a program that addresses the organization, the perpetrators, the targets, and the bystanders. She recognizes that this is a challenge for staff, who may believe that only the perpetrator needs to change. To create a caring and empathetic organizational culture, staff as well as residents need to take part in training. Everyone must work together to create a caring community. The essential components are caring, empathy, accountability, and trust. The book provides an excellent overview and much practical advice, with extensive examples of bullying and intervention techniques.
An attitude of caring and empathy must be embraced by the entire organization; residents, staff, and management must make a commitment to promote and live by the tenet of equality and respect for all members of the community. p.45
In her research at two assisted living facilities, Bonifas studied the emotional impact on wellbeing related to bullying among residents, shared her findings with the residents, and helped the residents to devise solutions. Based on her experience, Bonifas asserts,
Care providers can be trained to recognize and minimize bullying behaviors, and those who are bullied can be taught effective skills to address and even prevent such behaviors. p. xvii
Bonifas notes the range of bullying behaviors among residents, ranging from one person targeting another, to social bullying to exclude a target, and cliques seeking to oversee and control others, and even affecting the whole institution, with the potential for staff to be affected or bullied, and even for staff to use bullying tactics in the attempt to restore peace. Bonifas proposes that training of staff is needed so they can effectively prevent bullying.
For many people, living in a communal setting is a challenge, requiring adjustments to sharing common areas with people of various other backgrounds. Claiming a territory or control over social activities is one way to resolve the frustrations of adjustment, converting “public space into private space.”
Targets of bullying may disturb or annoy other people, or just be different in some way. How can a person who is targeted for bullying respond in a resilient manner? Coping strategies suggested by Bonifas can include ignoring the bullying, avoidance, keeping busy with individual activities or with supportive people and pets, understanding the perpetrator, and seeking to influence others. However, I am concerned because these strategies must be monitored lest they put the burden on the target, and also cause them to restrict their social interactions in communal activities, so that they display “warning signs” of being bullied. pp. 36-40
Engaging bystanders is essential. If bystanders don’t intervene, the perpetrator will continue; but bystanders can learn how to break the cycle. Residents need to see that it is the perpetrator who has a problem, they need to stand up to the perpetrator, and then walk away.
While this approach with a focus on bystanders may prove effective to deal with an individual perpetrator, it may fail when there is a situation of group bullying. I have observed how a group of perpetrators can impose pyschological and social sanctions not only on a target that resists, but on their friends and bystanders, so bystanders will likely not dare step forward in the absence of support from management and staff. In multifamily housing, I have identified such situations as institutional mobbing, where the authority figures do not intervene, allowing a group of perpetrators to intimidate and punish targets at will. (1)
Bonifas asserts that a written policy, developed with participation by residents, can facilitate creating a caring culture. She provides ideas about how to carry out surveys to identify problems and to elicit suggestions from residents, and a model bullying policy statement. This section alone is worth the price of the book, providing a useful guide to creating a bullying policy. pp. 56, 66 Other approaches include a “peace learning circle” to learn how to respond to situations of conflict and turn them into peaceful situations; and encouraging civility in daily life. Residents need to learn to tolerate people who are different, learn to communicate without hostility and anger, encourage empathy, and more. But if these efforts fail, and the perpetrator is causing harm or violating the rights of others, they may have to leave the facility. I caution that helping a perpetrator to have more control or to gain more friends must be done with caution, lest this expand the circle of perpetrators.
Bonifas considers several ethical issues, problems that may be difficult to resolve. When the organization does not try to deal with bullying, it is bad for the organization and creates a situation that I have identified as institutional mobbing, where perpetrators have freedom to use bullying. Unfair treatment of residents can be avoided by careful investigation and hearing all sides. The rights of residents must be protected, so if a perpetrator harbors prejudices against classes of people, the staff needs to set limits and prevent such feelings from expression in public areas. Some residents who use bullying tactics may pose very difficult problems for staff. It is then most important to do a careful analysis of the underlying causes of the bullying behavior. Is it from substance abuse? dementia? a mental health condition? a need for power? Only after a careful diagnosis of the problem can action be determined.
The most effective interventions for elderly residents to forsake bullying as an answer include providing other ways for them to feel personal power and control, to deal with feelings of loss, and to learn how to understand and respect the feelings of others. Intervention begins with setting limits and enforcing boundaries. Targets can learn to protect themselves, stay out of harms’ way, and to advocate for themselves. And support groups can be helpful. Even staff can become targets of bullying by residents. They need training and support from the organization.
Eleanor Feldman Barbara discusses methods to assess the prevalence of bullying and proposes strategies for intervention. The main method is to train residents and staff to recognize bullying and to be “upstanders,” people who will speak out or act to stop the bullying and protect the target. Another intervention is to recognize and reward residents who have acted on the core values of the community. Finally, when residents engage in activities outside of the residence to do good in the community, they feel better about themselves, enhance the reputation of their residence, and bullying tends to diminish.
Alyse November discusses a method of empathy training called “different like me.” There are many aspects of this program, which has approaches to several aspects of communal life that can be made more open and accepting of all persons.
Catherine Parker Cardinal proposes the goal of creating a positive community environment in order to prevent bullying, because it is much harder to act against bullying directly for social and legal reasons. Confrontational approaches might drive the bullying underground and result in a worse situation. Elderly people living independently may resist change, and unlike teachers of children, the housing provider and staff have limited options for enforcement. Thus, the goal of creating a culture of civility and social wellness is indeed a good idea. Can this gentle approach work in the face of determined resistance by an entrenched group that uses bullying tactics? What are the conditions to make this approach feasible? Is it possible in subsidized housing? Does it need more staff? New legislation? How to eliminate the harassment and serious bullying that would inhibit and defeat efforts to create a positive community?
Policy and legislation
Alyse November and Stephanie Langer address the social and policy issues that must be addressed to protect the elderly from bullying. While elder abuse is already a major problem which is bound to grow as the elderly population grows, there are almost no legal protections against bullying of the elderly. They present an excellent consideration of how to adapt laws protecting school children from bullying, and raise important questions about how to define and implement new legislation. They mention Massachusetts legislation, including the bills proposed by the Stop Bullying Coalition, which has now led to the creation of the Massachusetts Commission to Study Ways to Prevent Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multi-Family Housing, pursuant to Chapter 2 of the Resolves of 2016. (2)
Alyse November and Stephanie Langer advise,
Any proposed legislation must include staff administration trainings on the importance of building caring communities, creating a congruent climate (everyone is in agreement or harmony), identifying and addressing inappropriate behaviors, and addressing bullying behaviors. There must also be ongoing programming for residents on issues such as prevention, managing bullying issues as they arise, and creating committees that include stakeholders.p. 147
And in Missouri, legislation recently passed because of vigorous advocacy by Edie Potts, a resident, making elderly bullying a form of abuse subject to the established elder abuse protective agency. (3)
I strongly recommend Bullying Among Older Adults: How to Recognize and Address an Unseen Epidemic, a timely and important resource. There is much of value which could be adapted to settings with diverse clients including independent-living elderly and younger people living with disability, so it could be very helpful for managers, staff, and resident service coordinators working in multifamily subsidized housing. The primary audience consisting of administrators and professional staff in residential environments providing assistive, supportive, or nursing services will find this an essential guide to enhancing the quality of life and work in their residential communities.
This review is Copyright 2016 Jerry Halberstadt and was published at http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/bonifas
(1) Halberstadt, Jerry; with a Foreword by Maureen Duffy, Stop Bullying: Creating Healthy Communities for the Elderly and Disabled, (Onset & Peabody: Togethering Press, Forthcoming, 2017.)
(2) Chapter 2 of the Resolves of 2016—S1984 189th An Act Resolve creating a commission to study ways to prevent bullying of tenants in public and subsidized multi-family housing.https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/Senate/S1984 also http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/signed
(3) Missouri SB732 Modifies numerous provisions relating to public safety. It includes a definition of bullying of elderly or disabled persons, creates a mandate to require making a report of suspected bullying to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Division of Senior and Disability Services, lists specific professions and roles that are mandated reporters, and sets penalties for a failure to report in a timely fashion.
Concerned about how the upcoming November 8th election will affect low-income renters? Click here to see NAHT’s 2016 Election Platform to see how NAHT is advocating to preserve affordable housing and renter’s rights in 2016.
Protesters blocked Downtown traffic during Tuesday’s lunch hour as they called for more affordable housing in Pittsburgh.
Marchers carried signs emblazoned with slogans such as “evict slumlords, not people” and “housing is a human right” after a rally at Katz Plaza. They moved down Penn Avenue to Sixth Street then to Market Square.
Among them was Randall Taylor, 50, who said he was forced from a rent-controlled East Liberty apartment last February along with dozens of other residents to make way for a Whole Foods grocery store development. He said gentrification is “running wild.”
Click the link below to read more.
These Miami Beach residents are speaking out after being unable to leave their homes for over a week due to a broken elevator in their building. Our VAHPP Legal Fellow Tatyana Manning at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. is helping the residents take action. Visit the link below to hear their story:
Who’s Who In The VAHPP
National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT)
Founded in 1991, NAHT is the first national membership organization of resident groups advocating for 2.1 million lower income families in privately-owned, HUD-assisted multifamily housing. Through NAHT, tenants have proven that united action can mount an effective campaign to save people’s homes. For seven years, from 1995-2002, the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT) initiated and coordinated a successful VISTA program in HUD multi-family housing. The program placed up to 60 VISTA organizers each year in local host sites, and at the conclusion of the project, reached 32 cities in 27 states. .NAHT VISTAs helped tenants form more than 520 tenant organizations that met HUD standards, including several that achieved resident ownership of their developments. With assistance from VISTAs, these tenant associations preserved or improved more than 70,000 at-risk HUD apartments, and trained tens of thousands of tenants on their rights.
Equal Justice Works has partnered with NAHT to select organizing host sites and to provide training and support for 33 VISTA organizers placed with 20 local nonprofit tenant assistance organizations.
Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps VISTA)
VISTA was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 as a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs. VISTA builds capacity in nonprofit organizations and communities to help bring individuals and communities out of poverty. Since 1965, over 190,000 have served as VISTA volunteers working with local organizations to strengthen communities and help people escape poverty. Eighty percent of former VISTA members continue to volunteer in their communities after their term of service ends.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has set aside funds for a national VISTA Volunteer program in privately-owned HUD multifamily housing from Section 514 of the Multifamily Assisted Housing Reform and Affordability Act (MAHRAA). To date, HUD has advanced $2 million through an Interagency Agreement with CNCS for a two year VISTA Volunteer program. CNCS has matched these funds with its own resources for program benefits to support 45 participating VISTA Volunteers in VAHPP for two years.
About Equal Justice Works
The mission of Equal Justice Works is to create a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice. We provide leadership to ensure a sustainable pipeline of talented and trained lawyers are involved in public service. Equal Justice Works provides a continuum of programs that begin with incoming law school students and extend into careers in the profession. We provide the nation’s leading public interest law Fellowship program and offer more postgraduate, full-time legal positions in public service than any other organization.
Equal Justice Works has been selected by CNCS as its Intermediary organization to administer the VAHPP program. Equal Justice Works will also select legal host sites and train and support 12 VISTA attorneys placed with 10 nonprofit legal service organizations.
VISTA Affordable Housing Preservation Project (VAHPP)
This project will build the capacity of tenant associations in eligible Project Based Section 8 HUD-assisted properties to increase tenants’ knowledge of their rights, responsibilities and options for preserving and improving their homes and communities as affordable housing. The project aims to (1) increase tenant outreach and training capacity of qualified local nonprofit organizations in at least 20 cities; (2) organize or strengthen up to 120 independent tenant associations that meet HUD standards at 24 CFR Part 245 (3) help tenants save or improve at least 120 eligible Section 8 communities which house more than 18,000 families. 45 VISTA members will build the capacity of tenant organizations through outreach, education, leadership development and legal services over the next two years.
Map of the current VAHPP Community Organizers and Legal Fellows across the the USA:
Harassment is a serious problem for too many tenants. We need more protections to allow us to feel safe in our homes.
HUD’s proposed rule on harassment and liability for protected classes under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a strong step in the right direction. The proposed rule is thoughtful, thorough, and moving in its forthright affirmation of people’s homes as a sanctuary for privacy, personal freedom, security and safety. It clearly declares that all protected classes under the FHA should be protected from broad, inclusive definitions of harassment which may be perpetrated against people because of their membership in one or more protected class.
In particular, we applaud HUD for clarifying in the proposed rule that third party providers (such as owner and their management agents) are directly liable for failing to “take prompt action to correct and end” harassment or any other unlawful discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
Protected classes include women, people of color, people with disabilities, national origin, and people with families. One notable exception is age, which is an unfortunate gap in the federal law and not something HUD can alter.
Overall, NAHT supports the proposed rule, and endorses the recommendations filed by the National Housing Law Project, which suggests that the rule could be strengthened by highlighting, in the Preamble, additional examples of potentially harassing, unwelcome conduct that could give rise to FHA liability.
You can read our comments here, including our suggests for strengthening the preamble.
URGENT! ACT NOW to tell Congress to pass “clean” appropriations bills and prevent a government shutdown!
Tea Party forces continue to push hard for destructive policy “riders” to ban Syrian refugees; defund Planned Parenthood and Obamacare; repeal environmental and labor protections; gut campaign finance laws and weaken financial reform.
Housing “riders” have also been proposed to repeal Fair Housing protections and to abruptly terminate Section 8 contracts in “substandard” housing–potentially throwing thousands out of their homes.
THANK YOU if you are one of the thousands who have sent YOUR message to Congress! If you have, there’s time to send another one NOW!
If you haven’t done so yet, click here http://p2a.co/naht to send an email to your Members of Congress, urging “clean” appropriations bills. Then forward your message to your Facebook page and friends.
ACT NOW to tell Congress to pass “clean” appropriations bills and prevent a government shutdown!
The NAHT Board will be meeting on Friday, October 2, 2015 with senior HUD officials including Milan Ozdinec, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Housing and Voucher Programs. Ozdinec is the point person at HUD for the Museum Square crisis.
During the meeting, NAHT will push for the the recognition of enhanced vouchers, the Right to Organize and the Right to Remain.
Washington, DC’s Channel 9 report on the Museum Square Rally. Click the link below.
WAMU, the local NPR affiliate in Washington, DC, has put together a helpful “Explainer” that outlines the history and issues surrounding the ongoing battle over Museum Square. The online article can be found at:
Washington Post coverage of yesterday’s Museum Square rally organized by NAHT, CAPACD, APALA and other partners. NAHT’s Board joined the rally and march in support of the Museum Square Tenants Organization, a NAHT member.
Pictured in the photo are tenant leader Jenny Tang and her daughter Jasmine, age 9. Click the link below to read the story.