Health

Homeless senior population increasing

Aging seniors are increasingly likely to become homeless, which will have a big impact on local communities. The San Benito County Behavioral Health department is working to address homelessness.

This article was contributed by the San Benito County Behavioral Health Department.

There is a pattern emerging in this country that will certainly affect San Benito County. As the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) ages into the retirement age, many may be at risk of becoming homeless for the first time in their lives. In the 2019 Homeless Census & Survey,1 it was reported that of the 282 homeless residents in our county, 95% are over the age of 25, and 85% became homeless for the first time after the age of 25. Given some of the factors that contribute to homelessness, there is reason to believe that a large portion of those homeless are above the age of 50.

According to Dr. Margot Kushel, professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, there are other factors that can contribute to seniors becoming homeless.2  Dr. Kushel notes that a low-paying job during the person’s life is one contributor. This is because low-paying jobs typically keep a person from having significant savings or investments that can help them as they age. Many residents of San Benito County who cannot commute to our neighboring larger counties can relate to living paycheck-to-paycheck, or being unable to meaningfully invest into their future.

A sudden crisis can also contribute to homelessness among our elderly population. A crisis can range from the illness and/or death of a spouse or an individual, or an end of a relationship where a person depended on all or part of the income of their significant other. Lack of social support can make it more difficult to cope with a loss of a spouse or a loss of a home. Having good social support can help a senior to fight an unreasonable eviction, assist in completing all the steps necessary to get assistance from various programs, and help them feel less shame about receiving public assistance.

Physical health can also affect seniors negatively when becoming homeless. It is documented in Dr. Kushel’s study that homeless seniors are more likely to report health problems that are more common in much older adults. Seniors aged 50-65 are more likely to report health problems that are generally seen in adults in their 70’s and 80’s.

San Benito County Behavioral Health is helping reduce the risk of senior homelessness with their support through agencies like the Esperanza Center, Jóvenes de Antaño, and the Senior Residential Complex—Prospect Villa Apartments. A case manager is available that has developed many activities for seniors that are designed to help create a support system. The case managers also provide case management assistance to those who are at risk of hospitalization or institutionalization, and who may be homeless or isolated. Seniors are linked to community services to help with assistance such as food, legal assistance and medical care. If the case manager identifies seniors as needing additional mental health services, they are referred to Behavioral Health for ongoing specialty mental health services. San Benito County Behavioral Health is committed in investing into the community for the betterment of our future as we prepare to assist the aging community in their time of need.

For more information regarding The Esperanza Center, check out the website at the link below:

http://cosb.us/county-departments/health/esperanza-center/

Contact Maria Sanchez or Nancy Abellera by calling (831) 636-4020, or inquire in person, at 544 San Benito Street, Suite 102 in Hollister.

  1. Applied Survey Research. 2019. San Benito County Homeless Census & Survey 2019 Executive Summary. Retrieved from https://www.appliedsurveyresearch.org/homelessness-reports/2014/8/13/san-benito-county-homeless-census-and-survey
  2. Kushel, M. (2019) Aging Among Homeless Populations: causes, consequences, solutions. Retrieved from https://uccs.ucdavis.edu/events/event-files-and-images/UCCSKusheltalk10.16.191.pdf

 

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County of San Benito Behavioral Health Department