How to Meet the Needs of Seniors Experiencing Homelessness

Affordable Housing and Services Can Stabilize the Lives and Health of the Aging Population At Risk of Homelessness

A recent article in Affordable Housing Finance highlights “The New Age of Homelessness.” More and more seniors are struggling to afford their own homes.

In New Jersey, NJCounts 2019 found that 1,463 (16.5%) of the individuals experiencing homelessness on the night of January 22, 2019 were between the ages of 55-65 (3.8%.) And 336 of the individuals were over the age of 65.

And what is probably even more concerning is that among the population of individuals over the age of 55 experiencing homelessness on the night of NJCounts 2019, 23.1% of individuals experiencing homelessness were living unsheltered. This points to the growing need for not just more affordable housing for seniors living in New Jersey but also the need for more supportive housing and also the best practice of Housing First for helping those living unsheltered to find permanent homes.

Many American seniors live on fixed incomes in their retirement and as rents continue to rise, how do they make ends meet when their income remains stagnant? And what do they do if they face a medical crisis that they can’t afford?

Seniors living with chronic health problems can face great risk if they are homeless and living unsheltered. Where will they keep the medications they need to manage their chronic disease? How will they keep track of regular medical appointments if there first worry each morning is where will they sleep that night? If you rely on a walker or wheelchair, finding an accessible place to stay may be a challenge.

Additional shelter space for seniors may not be an effective an answer to this problem as expanding affordable housing for seniors. Experts agree that money could better be invested in affordable housing than shelters and nursing homes but that cost savings is often tied to the healthcare system and how best to free that projected savings up? State Medicaid agencies should be part of this conversation that could also include advocating for increased funding for federal affordable housing programs that serve seniors and individuals with disabilities.

This article shares the processes by which two examples of affordable housing for seniors was developed and the funding sources used to finance the projects.

Monarch Housing Associates coordinates NJCounts, the annual statewide point-in-time count of the homelessness.