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Older Adults Are Now the Fastest-Growing Unhoused Population in California
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Summary of the Article:

The article highlights the growing crisis of aging without a home among older adults in California. The state has a significant number of unhoused individuals, with older adults being the fastest-growing group within this population. From 2017 to 2021, the number of people aged 55 and over seeking homelessness services increased by 84%, while the overall older adult population grew by 7%. The rising rents in California have outpaced the income streams of older adults, including Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income, contributing to their risk of homelessness.

Many older adults who become unhoused face economic challenges, as they often live alone, have fixed incomes, and little to no savings. The situation is particularly concerning for Black Californians, who are overrepresented among the unhoused population. Research shows that living on the streets accelerates aging, leading to increased health problems and higher mortality rates among unhoused individuals. Experts refer to anyone aged 50 and above as "seniors" when addressing the unhoused population.

Existing shelters are struggling to serve older adults' unique needs, as they require more specialized care and medical attention. California's Master Plan for Aging aims to increase affordable housing options for older adults, allowing them to age in place, but the demand still surpasses the available supply. Advocates are pushing for Senate Bill 37, which would create a state-run housing subsidy program for older adults and individuals with disabilities at high risk of becoming unhoused. The goal is to supplement federal assistance programs and provide state-funded help to prevent homelessness among older adults.

The article features the stories of individuals like Norma Johnson, 65, who is facing the possibility of losing her belongings due to unpaid storage unit fees, and Elbert Lee Jones Jr., who experienced homelessness for decades and now seeks a place to call his own. Both individuals are currently staying at St. Mary's Center, a nonprofit organization that operates services for older adults, including transitional housing.

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