Seniors on the Rise Within the Homeless Population

NPR had a nice story about homeless seniors in Boston.  One of my favorite NPR reporters, Pam Fessler, was able to talk to a number of seniors who live outside in Boston. There was a follow up story on All Things Considered following a couple in Baltimore.   The morning story was going along really nicely with all the facts clearly laid out and then she talked to Dennis Culhane and the credibility of the story was undermined.  We written before about how we do not trust the information from Culhane because he is also a paid consultant to many cities.  He missed the large increase in families that happened in many cities and has provided the basis for national groups opposing the expansion of the definition of homelessness to include doubled up families. He has pushed a focus on long term homelessness, which many cities have followed and that has not done much to get us toward a solution to homelessness.  It is hard to trust a consultant who is at the same time using his own research to receive contracts from various jurisdictions to put in place programs that address the problems he identified. When media feature a researcher who is also a consultant that should be made clear. 

We can say that for the first time in years the number of seniors who were evicted increased in 2012. We have also heard reports from some of the Cleveland social service providers that the number of seniors they are serving has also increased.  The safety net (Social Security, Medicaid) has protected seniors from homelessness for years, but the ripple from the 2008 downturn seem to overtaking even the seniors.  We believe that many took in relatives with the collapse of the housing bubble.  One increase in water bills or an additional medical bill then sent the whole family over the edge and the senior is evicted.   The Cleveland Department of Aging does a good job trying to assist seniors that face eviction.  The staff under Director Jane Fumich are trying to put resources together to help seniors stay in housing. 

The NPR story does a good job explaining the healthcare, and nursing care issues faced by seniors.  They talk about the advanced aging process for people sleeping outside or in the shelters.  There are issues that a couple without kids might have to break up if they go to shelter and are unwilling to separate.  There are sleep deprivation and dietary issues that are all complicated by a person's age.  Most shelters make the individual leave during the day, and so seniors have to walk to one of the drop in centers.  There is a great deal of waiting in line for food, for the bathroom, and even to get in the shelter which is difficult for senior citizens.  Fortunately in Cleveland as opposed to Boston, we have significantly reduced the number of people sleeping outside. 

Brian Davis

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