Thursday, April 21, 2016

Huge Percentage of Elderly Fear Becoming Homeless

The National Healthcare For the Homeless notes that the homeless population in the United States is aging, mirroring general population trends. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the current elderly population will double by 2050, resulting in approximately 89 million people over the age of 65. Similar trends are expected for those experiencing homelessness, according to projections by the Homeless Research Institute.  It is estimated that elderly homelessness will increase by 33% in 2020 (44,172 in 2010 to 58,772 in 2020). By 2050, the elderly homeless population is projected to more than double, with 95,000 elderly persons expected to be living without stable housing. Although a number of safety net programs exist for the elderly, those between ages 50 and 64 often fall through the cracks despite having similar physical health to those much older due to daily stress, poor nutrition, and living conditions. In 2011, almost one-quarter of U.S. individuals below the poverty level were over the age of 62, demonstrating the financial instability of older and elderly adults. Two prominent studies have confirmed the prevalence of first time homelessness among older and elderly adults. The first, a study of three international cities (including Boston), found the majority of elderly participants to be newly homeless with a history of stable adult employment and private living accommodations. Among these individuals, common causes of homelessness included: financial problems, mental health problems, relationship breakdown, physical health problems, and issues related to work.

There has been no additional funding since 2010, therefore federal rental assistance programs have not kept pace with the growing need. Currently 37% elderly or disabled households in need receive no assistance. When housing costs consume more than half of household income, low-income families are at greater risk of becoming homeless. And being homeless and living on the street invites dangerous situations.

Compared with the overall locations of Florida's low-income older population, elder-occupied government-subsidized rental housing units are concentrated in fewer counties. On the basis of several standards, these affordable housing units are judged to be unfairly located, resulting in most of the state's low-income elderly population living in counties that are under served by these accommodations. Government-subsidized affordable rental units available to older persons are unequally and unfairly distributed throughout Florida's counties.

A wealth gap is not new in Palm Beach County, where for decades the wealthiest enclave in the U.S. is but a 50-minute drive from some of the poorest people in the nation. But there are many signs that it is worsening. As noted in the Palm Beach Post 9/19/11 "We are probably the richest county here in Florida," .....and there are certainly areas in the Belle Glade area that look like a Third World country. It's just not right to have people living that way, especially here in Palm Beach County..... you may have the highest inequality in Palm Beach County, compared to any other part of the state".

President Obama and the U.S.Congress recently reauthorized the Older American Act, a vital piece of legislation that supports programs and services such as home cooked meals, disease prevention, health promotions, caregiver support, transportation,etc for approximately 11 million individuals and their families. Noticeably missing was funding for low income housing . Every eight seconds until 2026 somebody is turning 65, bringing the total to seventy million.

We have a severe crisis of affordable senior housing in Florida, with a wait list of five years. To make matters worse, some of those lists are closed...which promises even a longer wait.
It is vital that each of the Presidential candidates be well informed of the issues and support an expansion of affordable senior housing. A recent study of the Harvard’s Joint Center for Affordable Housing noted  that the country is not prepared to meet the housing needs of this aging population. Therefore it is critical that you and others know the candidate’s record and position on issues that are important to older Americans. Since 67% of the people over 65 have no pension or savings, and live just on their social security, affordable housing is an important step to avoid becoming homeless.

The most effective way to bring about change is to make the effort to let our elected officials know of the hardships so many of our seniors are or will be facing. Therefore I welcome your comments and would be interested in hearing if you or someone you know is finding it difficult to find affordable housing. Names are not necessary.....just the voices.