Archive for April, 2010
Policymakers can consider themselves warned: in 10 years, homelessness among the elderly population will have increased dramatically unless they take action. Along with our own report, The Rising Elderly Population, the AARP’s Public Policy Institute and the Center for Housing Policy also released a study this week on Strategies to Meet the Housing Needs of Older Adults. It even comes with an online toolkit to help make these strategies into reality.
Although predictions about elderly homelessness are a cause for serious concern, there has been some good news in headlines about homelessness this week:
- In San Francisco, a new 56-unit development for formerly homeless individuals opened its doors this week. 149 Mason Street also offers a host of services, including an on-site medical clinic.
- Two officials in Ventura County, CA are working to invest extra revenue in homeless assistance, including start-up money for a housing trust fund.
- The Cleveland Homeless blog reported on a study by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless that shows despite increasing unemployment and an increasing difficult housing market, homelessness has only risen slightly due to a solid network of prevention and emergency services.
- The Huffington Post featured a story about a mother with two children who recently moved into permanent supportive housing after escaping domestic violence.
And it’s census week! We shared some neat trivia on our blog as census workers visited emergency shelters, free meal sites, and outdoor areas like parking lots in an attempt to get an accurate count of people experiencing homelessness.
In case you missed it, check out this New York Times piece, Times Square’s Homeless Holdout, Not Budging.
His name is Heavy, and he has lived on the streets of Times Square for decades. Day after day, he has politely declined offers of housing, explaining that he is a protector of the neighborhood and cannot possibly leave, the workers who visit him every day said.
Yet they are determined to get through to Heavy, the last homeless holdout in Times Square.
He might also be the most famous homeless person in the country this week. I wonder if we’ll ever read the story about Heavy moving into his own place.
According to The Rising Elderly Population, the latest report from our own Homelessness Research Institute, homelessness among the elderly is set to increase 33% between 2010 and 2010.
Bill: I think the primary thing that can be done right now is to trying shore up affordable housing programs on which elderly persons rely.
There’s a mix between project-based Section 8, housing choice vouchers, Section 202, Section 515. Because elderly persons have a diverse range of needs, they utilize a diverse range of federal programs and local programs. So I think it’s really critical that the housing stock in these programs be preserved.
Bill: It’s also critical that new housing units be created moving forward. Federal policy definitely has to move in a direction such that we’re dramatically expanding the availability of affordable housing that elderly persons rely on.
I also think that one of the things that’s critical from a homelessness perspective is that the job of ending chronic homelessness be completed. The projection is that there will be a 33% increase in elderly homelessness between 2010 and 2020 and a lot of the people that are chronically homeless now are in the “older adult but not yet elderly” category.
So the success that we can have in the next 10 years at actually housing the chronically homeless population, particularly the older adults, will go a long way to avoiding one of the pathways into elderly homelessness, which is older adults becoming elderly.
And one of the issues with that is that as they become elderly, their needs may change. So their needs in terms of the services, they’ll likely become more frail, so it’s important to get them into housing, so those needs can be anticipated and dealt with moving forward.
The third thing we can do, after we shore up the affordable housing stock and after we finish the job of ending chronic homelessness, is to better understand the elderly homeless population so that services and housing can be provided in a very targeted way.
One of the limitations in the research we were seeing – the studies we were cobbling together as a part of informing the background of this study – was that there’s very little that’s known about the elderly homeless population, in terms of how they use the shelter system, in terms of whether they’re episodic users of the system or chronic users, how they use the mainstream services and systems, including Social Security and Medicare – what their utilization is like of those sort of programs – and other sort of things about their characteristics, dynamics and location.
There’s a lot that’s not known about the elderly homeless population. Having better knowledge and a typology of the elderly homeless population is critical for being able to figure out whether or not there’s a set of prevention programs, for example, that could be put in place for elderly persons with low needs and whether or not there are service-enriched strategies that need to be put in place for people with higher needs and we need to figure out just how many people are in those two categories.