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Older adults who experience, or are at risk of, homelessness are a uniquely vulnerable population. The elderly are not only naturally more susceptible to many maladies, including disease, mental health disorders, physical injuries and disabilities (World Health Organization, 2019), but they are also much more likely to be reliant on fixed incomes and disconnected from social networks (NIH, 2019).  Recent data underscore that these risks have converged with historically high housing costs to fuel a housing precarity crisis within this population. Older adult homelessness increased 20% from 2017-2020 in Los Angeles (LAHSA, 2021), and the 2022 homeless count marked another 2% increase (LAHSA, 2022).  Among those who experience homelessness, older adults are more likely than any other age group to be chronically homeless (HPRI, 2019).  There are sharp racial disparities within this growing population, as well. Black and Latinx older adults are much more likely than their white counterparts to have experiences of homelessness (Mcqueen-Gibson et. al, 2021), reflecting the cumulative disadvantages they endure over the life course.

 

Effectively confronting the strong headwinds facing this vulnerable community requires researchers and policymakers to come together and answer several important, interrelated questions. How do we direct our resources to intervene before these trends grow worse?  What housing and service interventions are most impactful for this population?  How can we provide quality health care at prices that will not further destabilize older adults living on the margins?  Which strategies can we use to develop housing that will meet the needs of an aging population, in general, and older adults of color, in particular - especially as many care facilities close?

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  • Mardy Romero

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