The four steps leading to Lydia Gardner's front porch increasingly became a problem as the 90-year-old woman tried to carry her groceries up the stairs. One time she fell down them. Another time she strained her shoulder.
But in June 2011, she received a hydraulic lift that takes her from the ground to her small porch. Gardner credits the lift with allowing her to stay in her Acampo home in the Arbor Mobile Home Park.
"I would have probably ended up in assisted living because it probably would be worse. This is a wonderful idea. It is the best thing that ever happened," she said.
Gardner received her lift through federal Community Development Block Grant money from San Joaquin County. Soon, Lodi residents will also have access to the same services.
In 2011, the Lodi City Council approved giving some of Lodi's CDBG money to the Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living to help people move around their homes.
On Tuesday, the council discussed a new crop of applications, and will decide at a future meeting which groups will get money. Funding for DRAIL is an example of the competitive process the city goes through every year to allocate federal dollars to nonprofits.
DRAIL, which is based in Stockton, will use the $4,000 to install grab bars or other structural changes at homes in Lodi that will help people with physical disabilities, Assistive Technology Advocate Sandra Graham said.
"There are a variety of things we can tap into that make their home more accessible and safe so they can remain in their home without falling or depending on other people to help," she said.
The nonprofit is looking for Lodi residents who need to retrofit their homes with devices to grab onto when they get out of bed, into the shower or off of the toilet, Graham said. The group can also use the money to build smaller ramps over a couple-inch drops between rooms or to get out onto patios.
In the past, DRAIL has received money from Stockton, Manteca, and the county through CDBG funds, Graham said. It has waiting lists for people who need help to retrofit their home.
Once someone moves out of a home where they have installed equipment, the nonprofit can get it back to put in another home.
"I get to see an immediate benefit by having a lift installed at a home with an adult in a wheelchair because it gives them an opportunity to get in and out of their home," she said.
The nonprofit also has a variety of other services available to those with disabilities. They can help people fill out forms like rental applications, understand their Social Security benefits, and work with seniors to see how their retirement benefits would change if they went back to work.
Staff members at DRAIL are available to go to homes of people who had a stroke or other medical issue to help them relearn skills like cooking or washing a load of laundry. They can also provide technology like iPads to people with autism or Down syndrome who need them for communication.
"Our goal is to help them get to the point where they are more independent than they were before getting the services," Graham said.
For Gardner, it means the ability to continue to go to the store and live on her own in the house she moved into in 2003. Her sister's husband, who cannot walk up stairs because of a stroke, can also now visit and help out when Gardner is sick.
She can take her regular walker out to the store, as opposed to before when she had to have a specific walker outside for when she got down the stairs.
"It means a lot because it helps me even when I go to the store. It helps me bring back my groceries, because I used to have to take so many trips with the bags," she said.