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New York's home aide shortage keeps man from living in his own house

Flip Rivera_2-23-2022.png
Racquel Stephen
Philippe "Flip" Rivera and Heather Burroughs inside Rivera's unfurnished home which he'd bought last May and has been unable to move into for nine months.

Philippe “Flip” Rivera bought a house last May, but nine months later, he’s still unable to move in.

Rivera has cerebral palsy and has been living at Monroe Community Hospital for the last 15 years.

“Being at MCH has never felt like a home, ever,” Rivera said through a Dynavox, a speech-generating device.

Rivera said he’s had a lot of rules forced on him, which has brought out the rebel in him.

“Technically, I am supposed to sign out and sign in whenever I go and leave the property, but I don't.” he said.

His disregard for rules that he finds unnecessary has only worsened his sense of confinement. A few years back, he said he was required to wear a monitor for six months.

“When I tried driving through the doors to go outside, the alarm went off and the doors locked,” he said.

Rivera has been fighting through a complicated and arduous process to be able to live independently since 2010. He spent around $40,000 in trust funds to have the house renovated to be more accessible.

However, because of a shortage of home care aides, he is still living at the hospital.

Philipe Rivera is sitting in his powered wheelchair on the Monroe County Department of Human Services campus.
Max Schulte
Philippe "Flip" Rivera outside Monroe Community Hospital where he has been living for about 15 years.

This week, state lawmakers are calling attention to a bill that would raise the minimum wage for home care workers to 150% above the regional minimum wage. Advocates, including Assemblymember Demond Meeks, say that could help increase the home care workforce.

“It's time that we as a community, we as a state, respect the work of homecare workers and the quality services provided to many throughout our community,” Meeks said on Wednesday.

If the bill were to pass, home aide Wilfredo Rodriguez says it could be life-changing for himself and others.

He’s currently staying on couches and floors of friends and family while making $13 an hour, he said. He sees this as a matter of urgency.

“We don't have much time, and fair pay for home care would actively change the lives of the people who need home care the most, the people who support those, and the lives of the communities that they live in,” Rodriguez said.
Over the years, Flip Rivera has seen other long-term hospital residents move into their own homes, including his friend Jensen Caraballo. But Caraballo says the worker shortage has significantly affected him as well.

“I was afraid that I would end up in a nursing home again,” Caraballo said. “It's hard to find people that want to do the work. Nobody wants to do the work because there's not enough pay.”

The home aide worker shortage is felt across the country, and the demand for these positions is expected to increase.

According to a study contracted by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, about 70% of adults over 64 years old are expected to need some kind of home care assistance.

Rivera says the lack of home aides is physically holding him back from a better quality of life.

“The poverty wages for homecare workers has made it difficult for me to find homecare workers willing to do this important work. The only thing keeping me at MCH right now is the shortage.”

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
Racquel Stephen is a health and environment reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
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