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Number of homeless seniors to rise sharply, study says

Posted: July 21, 2010 12:46 p.m.
Updated: July 21, 2010 1:54 p.m.

Moorpark, Calif. - U.S. Census projections have found that the number of homeless senior citizens could increase by at least 33 percent within the next ten years, with that number doubling by the year 2050, the National Alliance to End Homelessness reported last April.

The study defines homelessness according to guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which estimates that 2.4 percent of homeless adults are older than 62.

In 2008, the HUD estimated that the percentage had increased to about 2.8 percent, which is close to 45,000 homeless seniors nationwide.

This new information has national agencies and assisted living facilities gearing up to address this coming demographic.

According to Senior Smart, Inc., a marketing company specializing in assisted living and home hospice referrals, one large contributor to this phenomenon is the number of Baby Boomers who have now reached the age of 65.

Already, about 45 million Americans are considered senior citizens and according to U.S. Census projections, that number is expected to grow to 60 million, topping off at 90 million by the year 2050.

These numbers mean that added services such as housing, health care, and nutrition will be in greater demand.

"A significant percentage of the seniors that enter into the homeless population will be veterans, and many VA facilities are anticipating this," said Mary Jo Leste, chief executive officer of Senior Smart, Inc.

Some VA sites are building multi-story complexes to house their homeless veteran population, along with plans to expand their nursing facilities. Other sites are building "cottages" that function as assisted living homes.

At a typical VA facility, a homeless domiciliary program houses about 50 seniors and sponsors an additional 30 or so beds at the local Salvation Army shelter.

According to the study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, younger adults are traditionally more likely to be homeless.

But with the senior population in the U.S. increasing rapidly, these dynamics are changing noticeably. Many experts agree that the fight against homelessness should focus on supplying affordable housing and other types of assistance to all age groups.

However, the Federal Government offers few programs that provide these services to seniors.

The most prevalent of these programs is Section 202, a community-based program that targets residents that are 62 years and older.

Currently, there are about 300,000 housing units in the program.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are about 10 seniors on the waiting list for each unit. Additionally, public housing is available to people whose income falls 80 percent beneath the area median.


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