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How to Prevent and End Homelessness Among Older Adults
posted 04.21.2016

By Vanessa Barrington

Bill, a 67 year old Oakland, CA resident, waited three years for his home, a very small cinderblock studio in a Supportive Housing complex across the street from St. Mary’s Senior Center. Even though there’s barely room for a bed and a couple of plants, and he struggles to make ends meet, he considers himself lucky. At least he has a room with a door, a safe place to sleep, and crucial services that allow him to age in dignity on a very low income. Because he lives in supportive housing for low-income seniors, he has access to case management, social opportunities, transportation, meal programs, health screenings, and assistance with public benefits.

While Bill waited for this home, he was homeless. He slept in parks, in shelters, on benches, anywhere he could find. And his health suffered. It wasn’t always this way for Bill. He had steady jobs, a wife, and a home. But when Bill was in his late 50s, things took a drastic turn. He became chronically ill and his wife passed away. Suddenly, he was no longer able to work, and no longer had the support of a spouse.

A Special Report by Justice in Aging, How to Prevent and End Homelessness Among Older Adults, created in partnership with The National Alliance to End Homelessness, outlines the growing problem of homelessness among older adults and recommends policy solutions that can be put in place now to ensure that all older adults have a safe place to age in dignity, with affordable health care, and sufficient income to meet their basic needs.

If we don’t act now, by 2050, the number of homeless older Americans will more than double from 44,000 in 2010 to 93,000. Many, like Bill, will become homeless for the first time as they grow older. A lack of affordable housing and high costs for health care and other necessities are also leaving greater numbers of older adults at risk of poverty and homelessness. Additionally, disappearing pensions, the lingering effects of the Great Recession, and stagnant incomes mean that many people haven’t been able to save for retirement, leaving them vulnerable to homelessness. The solutions are within our reach. Read the report, and watch Bill tell his story in this video, below.

Vanessa Barrington is Communications Director for Justice in Aging, a national organization that uses the power of law to fight senior poverty by securing access to affordable health care, economic security, and the courts for older adults with limited resources. 

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