There is no one face of homelessness. Homelessness is not just something that happens to drug addicts and alcoholics. Families face homelessness and according to Leftfootforward.com, “One in three of us are potentially one paycheck away from homelessness.” The Huffington Post reports that “Nearly 44 percent of American households don’t have enough savings to cover their basic expenses for three months.” In an event such as an illness or an accident, there just isn’t enough to cover those expenses. A surprising and sad statistic is that our elderly are being hit hard with low incomes and struggle just to stay afloat. Justin King, federal policy liaison for the New America Foundation said that due to lower incomes and the increasing cost of living, “without savings, you’re one misstep away from financial disaster” and that’s exactly how people end up searching for a place to live. These are the facts:
• 10% of Americans age 65 and older live below the poverty line
• A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development revealed that 10.3% of the nation’s sheltered homeless persons were between 51 and 61 years old
• 37% of low-income seniors receive housing assistance
• In 2010 the monthly SSI payment for an individual was $703 – well below the poverty line.
• The SSI payment is intended not only to pay for housing but also supplement the costs of other basic needs. Yet if SSI represented an individual’s entire income and average costs of other essentials were subtracted, $181 would be an affordable rental price for housing.
What can be served to assist our elderly? For one, we need to develop low income housing that is created specifically for the elderly. According to the Fair Housing Act, there is to be specific housing for the elderly but there isn’t enough. Temporary shelter needs to be more elderly friendly by having shelter that is easily acceptable, for example not on a second floor walk-up which many seniors find challenging.
Medical care is an ongoing problem for the elderly. The harsh conditions of life on the streets exacerbate existing chronic health conditions as well as illnesses that grow more common with age, such as diabetes, cardiac disease, circulatory problems, and hypertension. Of course life on the streets has its own band of health worries as there isn’t any type medical care. The simple cold develops into the bronchitis, yearly shots aren’t given, such as flu shots, and basic medical treatment isn’t met.
There are many concerns and questions regarding elderly homelessness. Federal, state and local communities are trying to work together to prevent the increase the number of those who fall into homelessness.