Second of two parts.

Millions of Americans have big plans for Sunday, Sept. 9 when we honor the countless good deeds and unselfish service that grandparents provide day in and day out during National Grandparents Day — an annual observance that began in 1978.

But for an increasing number of grandparents, the role they have accepted requires a lot more than the occasional cooking baking day with the grandchildren, summer sleepovers or back-to-school shopping sprees. Since the 1990s, there’s been a consistent increase in the number of grandparents who have had to accept the role of being the primary caregiver for their children’s children.

And the associated costs, particularly housing, food and health care have left many seniors in desperate straits — sometimes sacrificing their own needs to make a way for their grandchildren — an estimated 2.9 million children and rising nationwide according to recent data from The Children’s Defense Fund.

The needs of these new “grandfamilies” have caused the leaders of U.S. cities to take another look at the lack of affordable housing and consider ways to create communities where these new forms of families can live easier in a multigenerational environment with services specifically geared to their needs.

Enter new collaborative projects like Plaza West in Northwest who will host a ribbon-cutting celebration Friday, Sept. 14 at 10 a.m., 1035 4th Street NW — officially opening the doors for a long-awaited affordable housing development in the District. For several months, officials have been accepting applications for potential residents and will continue to welcome applicants even when the number of available units have been filled and a wait list must be established.

Plaza West’s ribbon-cutting will be sponsored by Bible Way Church of Washington, D.C., Inc. (click here to view the first part of this story) and include the project’s developers Golden Rule Plaza, Inc., Mission First HDC and The Henson Development Company.

It’s important to note that moving these projects from vision to reality takes many partners, many hands and a lot of hard work.

But the end result is worth it, says Jaia Peterson Lent, Deputy Executive Director, Generations United whose mission in the District includes improving the lives of children, youth, and older adults through intergenerational programs, policies and strategies.

“Financial support is important to many families; in addition to Social Security, many families look at TANF or need to become licensed foster parents for the children in order to get the financial support to provide for the children’s needs,” she said. “Housing like the Plaza West development is very helpful as many grandparents and other relative caregivers were not expecting to take on the care for their grandchildren. Some may live in senior-only housing or housing that is too small to accommodate multiple children and many are living on fixed incomes.”

“Quality intergenerational programs like the ones provided at Plaza West engage the strengths of each generation and are mutually beneficial to both the older and younger generation. They also respond to specific documented needs. They do, indeed, make a difference.”

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