By Josephine Reid
For a small portion of America's elderly, senior housing equals living on the streets, in a homeless shelter, or in a car. Though Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid provide a safety net for some, not all people live out their final years with a secure, stable place to live.
No one knows how many people are homeless in America, much less how many of America's homeless are older adults. Though there is very little definitive information about the numbers of elderly who are homeless, providers generally agree that a small percentage of people who are homeless are over the age of 60. Providers who work with homeless people suggest that the hard living conditions of chronic homelessness cause the aging process to speed up and that people living in chronic homelessness are less likely to survive into old age.
The National Coalition for the Homeless suggests in their 'Fact Sheet' on the homeless elderly that street conditions are so severe that " a fifty year old living on the street may possess physical traits resembling a 70-year-old.
For elderly poor people who are at-risk of becoming homeless, the key to stable housing is often finding the resources to 'prevent eviction.' The Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program, gives money to states and localities throughout the country to help prevent or recover from an economic crisis. In Virginia, 112 cities and counties receive some funding through this program.
Often, the local Area Agency on Aging maintains an emergency assistance fund used by their resource coordinators on behalf of a client. In the same way, the local Department of Social Services can often help with housing emergencies for the elderly through their Adult Services or Adult Protective Services units. In every community, there are congregations and organizations that provide emergency housing assistance, case management and money management services that can help older people maintain their housing.