Increasing affordable housing is the first step to help homeless seniors. Just like families, youth, and middle-aged adults, if rent is affordable, people will be less likely to become homeless.
Additional steps to prevent elderly homelessness include resources to prevent eviction. In many communities, there are human service agencies and faith-based congregations to help homeless seniors. These organizations may provide:
These elements can help older people maintain their housing and prevent homelessness from happening in the first place. Sometimes, seniors who are at risk of homelessness just need a few hundred dollars to pay the current month’s rent. Or, they may need someone who can help them manage their finances and write checks as their health declines.
Some people might ask: Why don’t elderly people who are at risk of losing their homes go to assisted living facilities, or “nursing homes?” The primary reason is cost. Most assisted living facilities are very expensive. Affordable senior housing properties do exist and are accessible to some people at risk of homelessness. These are apartment communities offering rents that are reasonably priced to lower-income older adults.
Affordable senior housing allows people to have enough money left over to pay for other necessities, such as groceries or medication. However, access to affordable senior living can be very challenging. An average wait time can last approximately three to five years, and some people may never be able to access these facilities.
A few specific policies can help the health of homeless seniors. For example, diabetes and hypertension rates were climbing in the aging homeless population. However, recent opportunities afforded by Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act increased their use of medical services.
You can be an advocate on behalf of homeless seniors. Advocating is more than sharing your opinion on what you think should be done. It involves connecting to older-adult groups and organizations that include older adults and hearing their needs. That way, you can best represent the perspectives of older adults. You can also help homeless seniors directly. The Meals on Wheels program is an example of a program that you can engage with in your community that will help seniors.
Learn more—read “4 Ways to Help Homeless People.”
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