Homelessness among the elderly will likely increase by 33% over the next 10 years, and more than double over the next 40 years, according to a recent projection released by the Homelessness Research Institute. This projection is part of a paper examining the impact that elderly homeless will have on homeless providers and housing organizations. The paper also finds that the primary “pathway” toward homelessness for the elderly is from stable housing to a loss of housing due to job loss, health problems, and the disintegration of relationships, as well as the generally decreasing availability of public assistance programs.
The report concludes that because older Americans are economically vulnerable to homelessness, they require more preventive action, including the support that comes from federal programs. “Federal housing programs are fundamental in reducing the economic hardship experienced by the elderly whose only income is often Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income,” the authors note. The increase in the elderly population will require additional federal resources and programs to increase the supply of affordable housing; create permanent housing with supportive services for the chronically homeless; and conduct further research to better understand homelessness among the elderly.
Nationwide, the number of homeless senior citizens is currently 44,172; the authors estimate that this number will grow to 58,772 by 2020 and to 92,572 by 2050. The authors base their projection of increasing homelessness among the elderly on the Census Bureau’s projection of the increase in the elderly population through 2050 and the assumption that the percentage of those over 65 living in households earning half of the poverty level or less will remain at roughly 2%, as it has since 1975. They reach their projected number of homeless seniors by applying the current proportion of elderly individuals in deep poverty who are homeless, 1 out of 22, to the projected increase in elderly people in deep poverty.
This article is part of a larger series on the demographics of homelessness from the Homelessness Research Institute, the research and education arm of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
The report, Demographics of Homelessness Series: The Rising Elderly Population is available at www.endhomelessness.org/ content/general/detail/2698