Homeless Seniors. Think of those two words. These are words we never thought we would see together. But go into any one of our shelters and you will see gray-haired men and women in wheelchairs and walkers, guests with weathered faces who are incontinent and unsteady on their feet and frail seniors with disabilities who will make you wonder what has happened to our society.
Homeless seniors are the result of lack of affordable housing. The financial effect of the Great Recession and the lack of affordable housing that followed and continues to this day, have combined to give what we never imagined – an influx of homeless into our shelters who are well into their sixties, seventies and even eighties. Before the recession, people over sixty made up less than 3% of homeless. Today, at our largest shelter, people over sixty make up 26% of guests.
At Catholic Community Services we saw this tragedy unfold before our eyes. And we acted. Leaders of our Homeless Services and Home Care programs got together to figure out a way to serve the influx of homeless seniors in need of personal care, such as help with walking, toileting, taking a shower and traveling to medical appointments. But could ‘Home Care’ actually be provided to someone who doesn’t have a home? We thought the answer was ‘why not?!’
So working together across programs and with Department of Social and Health Services, we brought in social workers who did assessments and approved state-funded home care services to seniors at our largest homeless shelter – Nativity House. Our Home Care program provided the personal care. This partnership was something new and innovative and turned out to be very special.
Our primary goal was to provide comfort and care, and we did this, but what happened next was truly amazing – the overwhelming majority of the homeless seniors and people with disabilities we served with ‘Home Care’ got out of homelessness. Of the first twenty people we served, 75% transitioned to stable housing.
Some shelter guests went to apartments, like 73 year old Rita who had been homeless for over three years. Some became stable enough to live again with family like Lilly who moved in with her sister after almost five years of homelessness. Each had different stories but shared the same background: all were seniors or people with disabilities, all had been homeless for long periods of time, and all, thanks to the combined efforts of our homeless ministry and ‘home care’ services, found the stability needed to make a successful transition.
Homeless seniors are in every community. We want to bring our innovative practice to as many communities as possible. You can be part of this success. While we are able to leverage funding for personal care services, the extra coordination and care management has no funding source.
With your help, we can expand our services to more communities. With your help, we can continue to innovate effective strategies to get seniors and people with disabilities out of homelessness. With your help, we go back to the time when you would never see the two words “Homeless Seniors” again.
Peter Nazzal, Director, Long Term Care
P.S. A gift of $50 helps provide companionship and healing to a neighbor in need. Please consider a generous gift to aid a frail elder in your community with Home Care. Thank you!