A sorry fact that
The Trend of
The New York Times reports that cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Honolulu have seen such an increase in homelessness that some have declared a state of emergency or resorted to issuing laws that make sitting or lying down on sidewalks prohibited. Some cities have created special homeless tent zones. These measures haven't made any real progress in solving the homelessness problem, however. The homeless may go elsewhere when driven away, but they will not go far. Most have no where else to go, nor do they have the resources to relocate. In fact the cities that have the highest homeless populations are also the cities that are encouraging gentrification. Gentrification is the process of a formerly undesirable area rising in real estate values, livability, and desirability through investment and higher taxes. Gentrification tends to drive out lower income people--like elderly people on limited or fixed incomes.
Another aspect to the trend of homeless older Americans is a failing government programs. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for people who are disabled or for people who are not disabled but who fall into low income parameters only kicks in at age 65. Likewise, Medicare only offers eligibility to those 65 and older. There are also gaps in the veteran housing voucher program. In addition to these gaps in aid, a large portion of chronically homeless people haven't worked enough in their lives to claim adequate Social Security benefits to live from. Especially sad is the fact that homelessness puts so much stress on the human body and psyche that many older homeless Americans never make it to age 65.
's homeless people are age 50 and over. America
Soup kitchens and social services provide temporary solutions. However, some programs offer more long-term solutions, and long-term solutions work best.
The Rapid Rehousing and Prevention Program (RRP) is one example. The RRP was birthed in
The permanent supportive housing federal program is subsidized housing for those with intense mental needs. There is also some permanent supportive housing available for those 62 years of ago or older. Yet need sometimes outruns the availability of such programs, and red tape sometimes intervenes in timely responses to the needs of the homeless.
At the same time, it has been found that permanent supportive housing (subsidized housing that includes services supportive to mental and physical health) may reduce the burden on emergency rooms and other public interventions. This helps offset the costs of permanent supportive housing programs.
Such reductions in the need for health care are particularly important in the cases of the elderly homeless. If good housing reduces emergency room visits, it is even more important for the ailing elderly than for younger, healthier populations.
Habitat for Humanity has anecdotal evidence that good housing helps cut down on hospital and emergency room visits. A testimony on their website tells of a family that moved into a Habitat for Humanity house from an apartment with a leaky roof and moldy walls. In spite of previous chronic respiratory problems, the family had not been to the hospital even once since moving to their Habitat home. Although Habitat for Humanity does not currently provide housing on the basis of age alone, the group does offer building assistance with age-friendly features and important repairs for those aging in place.
Public and private efforts, working together and apart, can help ameliorate the problem of homeless elderly Americans. After all, a society is judged by how it treats its weakest members, and elderly people in need of homes are certainly one of the most vulnerable groups.
Habitat for Humanity. Habitat, the Magazine of Habitat for Humanity International. Available at http://www.habitat.org/magazine/article/everyone.
Nagourney, Adam. (
Phillips, Sue W. (2010). Rapid Rehousing Manual. Available at http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/rapid_rehousing_10.pdf. Last visited