The causes of homelessness in later life: Findings from a 3-nation study

Homelessness is an intractable problem in many affluent countries and affects people of all ages, although much research and service provision have concentrated on young adults. Since the late 1980s, a few studies have focused on older homeless people and have found that many become homeless for the first time in later life, raising questions about why this happens, the unmet support needs of older people, and how their homelessness can be prevented. Recently, a few specialist services have been developed to meet their needs (Warnes & Crane, 2000). Cohen and Sokolovsky (1989) argued that many homeless people aged 50–59 years have chronic health problems and disabilities normally associated with old age and are unlikely to return to work. The age group may be particularly disadvantaged as many welfare services are avail- able to people only when they reach the officially recognized thresholds of old age. This article reports a study of the causes of homelessness among newly homeless older people in Boston, Massachusetts, four English cities, and Melbourne, Australia. It begins with brief descriptions of the study sites and the local policies, services, and homeless populations.