BEDS Serves Older Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Older adults face a housing crisis.

Low-income, single adults over 50 make up half of America’s homeless population, and the number of older adults experiencing homelessness will triple by 2023. Low-income seniors cannot afford modest apartments anywhere in the United States, and Social Security benefits, which aren’t available until 65, don’t provide adequate support (the average Social Security check is $1787.31, which leaves beneficiaries with $536.25 per month for housing[1]). Older adults see the same rising rent; health and behavioral healthcare; and food, transportation, and basic need costs as any other household. A sudden trauma, like “a rent increase, job loss, family breakup, or sickness” can push them over the edge into homelessness.

Homelessness accelerates aging.

Older adults experiencing homelessness risk environmental exposure, accidents and injuries, chronic and acute health and behavioral conditions, and violence and exploitation. They face steep obstacles to healthcare, behavioral healthcare, and human services that could help them recover. The University of Pennsylvania found that older adults experiencing homelessness “show signs of geriatric conditions” 20 years earlier than the housed population. Senior study author Margot B. Kushel puts it bluntly—if not somewhat blithely—”50 is the new 75.” In the end, “the average life expectancy of homeless people is 42 to 52 years old,” 34 to 24 years less than their housed peers.

We help older adults experiencing homelessness stabilize their lives.

Last year, BEDS served 140 older adults, and we expect the number to grow. We have partnered with Pathlights and South Suburban Pads to create the Aging Homeless program that provides basic needs and supportive services for older adults through our Supportive Housing service line. We are also working with Aging Care Connections to provide transitional housing and specialized Ambulatory Integration of the Medical and Social (AIMS) services that combine social work with health and behavioral healthcare.[2] The program provides older adults experiencing homelessness with transitional housing in and adjacent to our Linda Sokol Francis Summit Medical Center. Residents can access nursing and clinical care, supportive housing services, and basic needs at the Center.

You can support older adults experiencing homelessness with financial donations and in-kind support.

[1] This assumes they follow the generally accepted rule of thumb of devoting no more than 30 percent of income to housing. Households exceeding that limit are considered “housing burdened,” and in danger of  “food insecurity, difficulty paying bills, skipping needed medical care,” and other “material hardships.” Moody’s Analytics recently found that the average American household falls is housing burdened.

[2] A generous grant from the RRF Foundation for Aging supports our partnership.