Updated: Feb 22, 2021
When you hear of crises in California, you think of wildfires, protests, and scandals about Hollywood stars. What is quite often swept under the rug is homelessness, especially within the elderly. In the United States of America, there are approximately 567,715 people experiencing homelessness, and we can assume that the numbers are only increasing due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Of the 567,715, California alone takes up about 27% of the homeless population. And of that 27%, almost half of the homeless population in California are over the age of 50. Unfortunately, these numbers are only increasing. Specifically, in ages 65 and older, homelessness is projected to triple and increase by 103% by 2030.
Why is homelessness so common, especially in California presently? California has been experiencing a housing crisis since the late 1900’s, where there were not enough houses to support the rapidly growing population. In economic terms, there is more demand than supply of housing. Homelessness is extremely prevalent in older generations because housing prices are consistently increasing while incomes are staying stagnant. By the time older generations must retire, most pensions fall through and they lack the money for survival, so working becomes a must; however, with the rise in ageism, advancements in technology, and the increase in population, work becomes a less viable solution.
As Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti said, homelessness is “the product of decades of failures. And bad decisions aren’t just made — they accumulate. Decades of disinvestment and poor urban planning have conspired to limit our supply of affordable housing, reduce mental health services, lower the quality of education, gut our middle class, and allow addiction to take hold in too many lives.”
The lack of shelter and homes directly correlates to the public health. Homeless people, no matter the age, struggle with malnutrition, stress, and lack of health care, but the elderly does not have the stamina to maintain their strength from such conditions. They are also more susceptible to chronic conditions. Especially now, where a pandemic continues to rage on and masks become a necessity, the homeless population lack the resources to keep themselves safe.
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the solutions to homelessness include increasing housing, integrating healthcare, building careers, fostering education communities, strengthening crisis response systems, reducing criminal justice involvement, building partnerships, and preventing homelessness. The road to decreasing homelessness is quite extensive and arduous, and many efforts are being made through the government and shelters and rescue missions, like the Union Rescue Mission (URM) and Los Angeles Mission. The local government, for example, is consistently building new housing for the citizens of Los Angeles. In 2018, the government added 16,525 units of housing to L.A., which is three times more than any city in California. In addition, Union Rescue Mission executes their goal of aiding the homeless through their intensive recovery program, allowing the homeless to restart their lives, on the right track. These methods, though expensive and extensive, are necessary and proper for the rejuvenation of the streets of L.A.; however, this is not enough. The citizens of L.A., California, the United States of America, and all the world, must continue to work together to reduce homelessness and poverty, by first helping their local streets.