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Feb. 8 - Board of Supervisors Approve Proposal To Create County’s First Shallow Subsidy Program for At-Risk Older Adults

February 8, 2022

Contact:          Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA – Serving Seniors

                        619-997-2495 or GLF@SAN.RR.COM


Board of Supervisors Approve Proposal To Create County’s First Shallow Subsidy Program for At-Risk Older Adults

With a unanimous vote of 5-0, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors passed a proposal introduced by District 2 Supervisor Joel Anderson and District 3 Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer asking County staff to design a new pilot program providing a “shallow subsidy” to low-income, rent-burdened older adults who are at risk of homelessness.

The proposed pilot program is a direct outcome of findings in the Serving Seniors Homelessness Needs Assessment report issued in September 2021. Many older adults become homeless because they lack an economic safety net. They suffer catastrophic events with dire financial consequences. Of the 400 low-income and homeless older adults surveyed for the study, more than half (56%) of those interviewed report an additional $300 or less of monthly income would increase their rent security.

Estimates provided by County staff for current emergency shelter operating costs, including services, range between $2,500 - $6,000 per individual, per month. County staff have been directed with today’s vote to bring back options and scope for the pilot program to the Board of Supervisors for approval within 90 days.

“This action represents bold, forward-leading support,” said Serving Seniors CEO Paul Downey. “A shallow subsidy for seniors was one of the major recommendations made by Serving Seniors in our homelessness Needs Assessment. Our report was intended as a living resource with data to help our decision makers take action – not to gather dust and be forgotten.

“This shallow subsidy is a strategic investment in preventing homelessness in the first place. This is a model colleagues across the country are eager to implement. They are envious by the support shown by this board,” added Downey. 

Authors Anderson and Remer-Lawson emphasize cost-savings through prevention model

“Instead of waiting for our seniors to become homeless to help them, we are being proactive,” said Supervisor Anderson in his presentation. It leads to a better life outcome and to cost savings for taxpayers. These subsidies pale in comparison to the cost of having people on the streets, and gives us the opportunity to lift them up.”

“No seniors should be sleeping on a sidewalk because they’ve lost their home,” said Supervisor Lawson-Remer. “This approach is data-driven. It shows an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If this pilot is effective, it could be a game changer. We want to expand programs that show results. We cannot and must not do more of the same.”

141 members of the community provided written comments in favor of the proposal. Speakers representing several services organizations including the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, St. Paul’s PACE, Jewish Family Services, Partnership Assisting The Homeless (PATH), as well as individuals who previously experienced homelessness spoke in favor of the proposal.

 Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the unsheltered population. According to San Diego’s 2020 Point in Time Count, one out of four of San Diego’s homeless adults is over the age of 55. There are 2,000 older adults that are actively homeless, and this number is projected to triple over the next decade.

San Diego’s regional housing supply has not kept pace with the needs of low-income older adults, where waitlists for subsidies and voucher programs can extend several years. There are currently 68,000 individuals on the San Diego County Housing Choice Voucher waitlist and nearly 40,000 individuals on waitlists for Project Based vouchers.

The authoring Supervisors suggest that the County include the one-time stimulus funds and already appropriated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds dedicated to homelessness solutions as a potential funding source.

Read the Board Letter supporting today’s action here.

Serving Seniors intends the Needs Assessment report to foster a greater understanding of the direct experience of seniors facing homelessness,  and to initiate broader discussions on how to invest in practical, immediate, and permanent solutions to homeless services infrastructure to benefit San Diego’s low income seniors today -  not tomorrow when it is too late.

About Serving Seniors

Founded in 1970, Serving Seniors is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in San Diego, California, dedicated to serving low-income adults aged 60 and over. A leader in senior advocacy and programming, Serving Seniors has created an innovative model of comprehensive services including nutrition meals, housing, health and social services and lifelong learning opportunities to hundreds of seniors in need. It is the largest provider of meals to seniors in the county, and one of the only organizations in the nation providing a robust range of services to vulnerable, at-risk older adults.

Serving Seniors President and CEO Paul Downey has been instrumental in the organization’s growth over the past 26 years. Since being appointed the role in 1995, Downey has guided the nonprofit’s innovative efforts to provide supportive services focused on keeping low-income seniors healthy and independent. Under Downey’s leadership, Serving Seniors has grown to provide more 1.7 million nutritious meals and coordinated services to 7,000 older adults each year. Read Serving Seniors’ groundbreaking 2021 report, Senior Homelessness: A Needs Assessment.  

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