Shelter Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness in Los Angeles County, released a strategic plan that included the first-ever comprehensive study of the older homeless population in Los Angeles, and provided specific policy recommendations on how to address the unique needs of this population that can be applied on a national level.
As the baby boomer generation ages and the number of people over 62 dramatically increases, so too does the number of older homeless adults. However, as Shelter Partnership discovered, there is a real lack of public focus on this population, and the needs of these individuals have largely been neglected. The purpose of its study is to describe the characteristics of homeless older adults in Los Angles and to provide a set of specific policy recommendations on how best to address the needs of this population.
In particular, the study found that older homeless adults are more likely to report income and be less dependent on county-funded General Relief than other single adults in shelters. As was expected, many of these older homeless adults face mental and/or physical disabilities (62%), and 28% of them reported prior military service, which is twice as high as the general homeless population. These factors and the age of these individuals put them in a better position to access Social Security and Veterans Administration and other benefits than younger adults.
Another key finding of this study is that at least one-third and possibly one-half of these individuals are chronically homeless. A lack of resources and poor health appear to be limiting their opportunities to stabilize their housing. Many are aging in shelters.
Based on the findings from the study, the authors conclude that the most effective way to serve this population is through subsidized permanent supportive housing. Specifically, they suggest establishing a housing development corporation to focus on the development of permanent supportive housing for fragile homeless adults, and advocating for a funding principle that requires all affordable senior housing developments set-aside 10% of their available units to homeless older adults.
The report will likely be useful to advocates wishing to highlight the issues of the aging homeless population in their own communities. Shelter Partnership’s full report can be viewed at www.shelterpartnership.org/HomelessOlderAdults.htm