MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Shelby County program meant to help seniors live safely in their homes is making changes after a Problem Solvers investigation.

The Problem Solvers looked into the home of Gary Swearingen, 71, who has health problems including diabetes.

“I don’t work because of my eyesight,” he said. “Social security is all I get.”

He said he lives on $800 a month, which makes it tough to keep up with his 40-year-old Hickory Hill home.

In 2018, a code enforcement officer told him his roof was in violation. He then applied for help with Habitat for Humanity Aging in Place.

“Aging in Place is a program meant to help older adults remain in their homes without having to prematurely leave,” said Dwayne Spencer, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis.

Since starting Aging in Place in 2015, they’ve worked on 1,000 homes, which helps seniors live longer, Spencer said.

“Keeping them in an environment familiar and comfortable to them and in these cases where we can outfit them to better serve their functional needs,” he said.

Numbers show the staggering need for the program in Shelby County: there are about 130,000 seniors over 65 and when Habitat launched the program, they found at least 7,000 who needed help. This year, they’ll be able to work on about 4 percent of those homes.

“We need more funding. We are beefing up our team to try to serve more families,” Spencer said.

But as they take on more clients, Swearingen wonders what falls through the cracks.

He showed the Problem Solvers the multiple issues he attributed to the work done by Aging in Place contractors.

“I fell off that toilet into the bathtub,” he said of a wobbly toilet in his master bathroom.

Documents showed a new toilet was part of Swearingen’s scope of work, but Habitat officials said it was secure when they left it.

The Problem Solvers wanted a professional’s take so we brought in licensed home inspector Lloyd Allen.

“I’ve been an inspector for 20 years,” Allen said.

He took a look at the work completed by Aging in Place including some plumbing, the toilet and roof.

From the attic, Allen reported seeing damaged decking on the roof.

“He has a legitimate gripe about the quality being bad,” Allen said. “It was an installation thing.”

In fact, the third party contractor who signed off on Swearingen’s work in 2018 is the same one who was the subject of an earlier Problem Solvers investigation.

“They said they didn’t caulk them and didn’t set them in right,” Lula Scott said of the issues in her Uptown home in 2021.

After the Problem Solvers brought the issues in Scott’s home to light, another organization that works with Habitat had to go back and redo the work by CMCC Construction.

“You’ve given us something to think about in that regard,” Spencer said.

We took the Problem Solvers’ findings back to Habitat for Humanity. The Director of Construction said he understood the homeowner’s disappointment.

“To see it today was shocking,” Allen Massing said.

But Spencer said at this point, they’re not going back to do work at Swearingen’s home; he’s confident in his inspectors, they’re past the one-year warranty period and they never use funding for the same house twice.

“When we left it, it was in good shape,” Spencer said.

But he tells the Problem Solvers they are now making changes.

“We have a draft of a contractor grade sheet,” he said. “You highlighting this has certainly heightened our senses of paying closer attention to the quality of the work, how we do the inspection.”

Phil Chamberlain, who owns CMCC Construction said he stands by his reputation and more than 40 years of experience, including building more than 5,000 homes in the greater Shelby County area.