Personal coping strategies of the elderly in housing emergencies

Client files of a city emergency service agency were randomly sampled to examine the post-emergency experience of different types of elderly clients. More than half of the emergencies were housing related. Interviews with these clients six months to three years later reveal a high rate of continuing need, institutionalization, and death. Interviews with selected clients who had needed emergency shelter or been found in deplorable housing conditions are qualitatively analyzed. Coping patterns include the self-sufficient who cope adeuquately (smallest group), those coping poorly either alone, with informal help, or with some kind of formal help, and those coping poorly who have already been institutionalized (largest group). The implications for programming and public policy are briefly discussed.