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45,000 Homeless Seniors in US, Number to Double by 2050

Outline: Population of homeless seniors in the US is expected to increase by at least 33 percent within 10 years.

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New Study Says U.S. Homeless Population Is Now Comprised of More Seniors.

According to a recent national study, the population of senior citizens who are homeless is expected to increase by at least 33 percent within the next ten years, with that amount doubling by the year 2050. This new information has national agencies and assisted living facilities gearing up to address this coming demographic.

A great contributor to this phenomenon is the fact that the Baby Boomer Generation is now hitting 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 greatly be needed.

"A significant percentage of the seniors that enter into the homeless population will be veterans and many VA facilities are anticipating this," states Mary Jo Leste, Chief Executive Officer of Senior Smart, Inc., a marketing company specializing in assisted living and home hospice referrals (see www.800seniors.com). Some VA sites are building multi-story complexes to house their homeless veteran population, along with plans to expand their nursing facilities. Also, building "cottages" that function as assisted living homes are one of the many ways VA facilities across the country are preparing for the coming senior boom.

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.

The report was released last April by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which is a nonpartisan organization that focuses on homeless issues in the U.S. The study based its definition of homelessness on 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.

Traditionally, homelessness has been a trend that has inflicted younger adults, according to the study. But with the rapidly increasing senior population in the U.S., these dynamics are changing noticeably. Many experts agree that instead of simply reducing homelessness among seniors, focus needs to be made on providing affordable housing and various other types of assistance to all age groups. However, there are a few programs that are provided by the Federal Government that provide affordable housing to seniors. The most prevalent of these programs is Section 202, which is a community-based project program that targets potential residents that are 62 years and older. Currently, there are about 300,000 housing units in the Section 202 program. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are about 10 seniors on the waiting list for each unit. This is all in addition to the option of public housing, which is available to people with an income that falls 80 percent beneath the area median.

In conclusion, the National Alliance to End Homelessness says that increasing the availability of affordable housing would make a giant leap towards reducing the amount of homelessness among seniors. However, additional research and studies are going to be needed to understand how to best serve the growing population of seniors that now find themselves on the streets.

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