Older Homeless Individuals Face Public Safety and Health Concerns
In a September 29, 2016 Vox article, “A third of the homeless people in America are over 50. I’m one of them”, CeliaSue Heht shares her experience of being homeless at age 66.
“At around 4:30 am, while the rest of the world is still asleep, I wake up and get moving under cover of darkness. Quiet spots with some degree of tree cover, or the occasional hospital or church parking lot, are typically where I sleep for the night. Still, there’s always the risk that someone will spot me and I’ll wake up with police blaring a flashlight into my eyes.”
Heht references that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture by militaries.
Writes Heht, “Elderly homelessness is on the rise. A combination of slow economic recovery from the recession and an aging baby boomer population has contributed to the rise of the 51 and older homeless population. The percentage has spiked by almost 10 points since 2007 — in 2014, the 51-and-older group represented nearly a third of the national homeless population.”
Heht spent much of her life in the middle-class, graduating from college, working and traveling. Yet, like many individuals experiencing homelessness, her life unraveled after a series of crises including a divorce, deaths in her family, an accident, a health crisis, and domestic violence. But after the recession, her freelance work dried up and she applied for early retirement and began receiving Social Security.
But her $672 a month Social Security income is not enough to pay for housing and the other necessities.
“Finding a permanent roof over my head is increasingly becoming a dream out of reach. Rent is much too high to be covered by my monthly Social Security checks, and living out of a motel is a luxury I just can’t afford,” writes Heht. “Even campsites or trailer parks, where I could pitch my tent and make a temporary home for myself, can cost up to $1,000 a month. And it feels like time is running out — my dog and I need a home as soon as possible.”
Individuals experiencing homelessness face increased health risks and if they are unsheltered, often worry about being found by the police while they sleep in their cars or outside and also how they will survive the next crisis.