SERVING SENIORS’ SENIOR HOMELESSNESS & HOUSING INITATIVE - NEEDS ASSESSMENT
San Diego is now the ninth most expensive city in the U.S. (2019). The Elder Index, developed by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research, reports 41% of San Diego’s seniors do not have enough income to pay for basic housing, food, healthcare, and transportation. Meanwhile, government housing programs are experiencing extreme waiting lists and intake tools fail to prioritize the elderly. These factors, combined with San Diego’s housing crisis, are intensifying senior homelessness, as evidenced by San Diego’s most recent Point in Time Count.
In 2020, 27% of San Diego’s unsheltered residents were 55 years and older, equating to more than 2,000 seniors living on our streets. Within this group of older adults:
- 88% of seniors became homeless in San Diego
- 43% are experiencing homelessness for the first time
- 54% are sleeping on the street or sidewalk
- 50% are managing a chronic condition
A needs assessment is the first and most necessary step in beginning to address the unacceptable circumstance of San Diego seniors aging unsheltered or within ill-equipped facilities. While our community has uniquely identified unsheltered veterans, families, and youth, seniors continue to be grouped in with all adults. This occurs despite research demonstrating the set and scope of factors that differentiate homeless adults over 55 from those homeless adults younger than 55 years old. These factors include:
- Higher prevalence of episodic versus chronic homelessness
- Poorer health
- Higher functional and cognitive impairments
- Higher mortality and rates of institutionalization
- Significant reduction in employment opportunities
Without a focused examination of and response to the unique needs of San Diego’s homeless older adults, it will be difficult to maximize limited resources and to strategically attend to the fastest growing segment of San Diego’s homeless population—aging baby boomers.
Which is why Serving Seniors is helping San Diego join other thought leaders in neighboring Los Angeles and San Francisco Counties by conducting the first, local needs assessment focused on senior homelessness. The goal of our needs assessment is to elicit a systematic description of local practices, priority needs, gaps, and barriers that will inform how to approach and design a senior-friendly shelter. At this point, our vision for the elder shelter is either the construction of an innovative, purpose-built shelter to house 180-240 seniors per year or the creation of a replicable model delivering an array of aging services using reserved sections of existing shelter space. Either version will introduce a stopgap housing solution for unsheltered seniors during a time of extreme vulnerability.
In July 2020, we launched the needs assessment and are now in the process of soliciting feedback from older adults + homeless service providers. We anticipate publishing our results in June 2021.
The key objectives of the assessment are:
- Provide a description of the current continuum of care delivery system for older adults experiencing and/or at risk of experiencing homelessness;
- Present the results of the needs assessment (through a situational and environmental analysis) to identify gaps and barriers;
- Examine data, policies, procedures and practices used by homeless shelters, transitional, supportive housing organizations, Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) and Low Income Public Housing programs;
- Investigate ‘best practices’ nationally and compare and contrast to the current work in San Diego; and
- Synthesize information learned across points 1 through 4 with the goal of developing an action plan to guide both current and future investments (including partnerships, funding, and resources) towards addressing senior homelessness in San Diego.
Our current partners on this project include:
- The Hearst Foundation
- Harder and Company Community Research
- 211 San Diego
- San Diego State University, School of Social Work
- UCSD’s Urban Studies and Planning Program
- The Regional Task Force on Homelessness
Call to Action
The entire Serving Seniors’ team is pleased to have begun this journey and would like to invite your support and participation. To join us, please reach out to Christina Selder, Director of Community Engagement & Government Relations at email@example.com or (619) 487-0747.