Aging on the Streets: America’s Growing Older Homeless Population

The face of American homelessness is changing — into an older one. People 50 and older make up more than 30 percent of the nation’s homeless population. The advanced age of this country’s homeless requires us to revisit and adapt outdated government assistance programs that were designed to address the needs of a much younger group and fail to account for medical, social, and emotional needs that emerge later in life According to the preponderance of research in this area, the growth of elder homelessness can be attributed to the aging of existing chronically homeless individuals and people who experience homelessness for the first time later in life. The latter group is emerging from conditions that can be traced back to the 1980s that put increased economic strain on older Americans, pushing many into an unaffordable renting market, which was compounded by the fact that older members of the workforce who lost jobs during the recession were less likely than their younger counterparts to find new ones.