LA County is taking steps to solve the drastic rise in numbers of older adult homelessness. County officials stated that homeless people on average have their lifespan cut by at least 20 years, also older adults accounted for 73 percent of the COVID-19 deaths for the homeless population. A report issued by United Way of Greater Los Angeles states that by committing new federal and state money to available programs, the county can eliminate homelessness for adults 55 years and older, more than 15,000 elders.
The one-time funding from the American Rescue Plan and the state of California will be used by the city, county, and LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), to implement the Older Adults Housing Pilot.
“This report combines the expertise of scholars, service providers, public officials and people who have experienced homelessness for themselves, and identifies steps we can take today to house thousands of people and prevent hundreds of unnecessary premature deaths,” said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “We have a one-time opportunity right now to align federal and state funds to fully implement a pilot that established unprecedented coordination across the County to bring older adults home.”
The report also states that Black and African-American people experience homelessness in LA at a higher rate, (39 percent) compared to the general homelessness population (33 percent). Racial inequality plays a significant role in these numbers as the poverty rate of Black seniors is 18.7 percent, compared to White seniors, who only account for 6.9 percent. The report also suggests a criminal reform program as previously incarcerated Black males make up two-thirds of the homeless population.
“Many older people face mobility issues, health issues, safety issues,” said Shawn Pleasants: who lived on the streets of Koreatown for 10 years. “In LA, you’re not legally allowed to put up your tent until nine at night. I don’t have night vision so by putting my tents up early, I was breaking the law. But then the police can write you a citation that turns into a warrant.”
“As an older adult, you’re forever questioning your own self-worth and wondering what it is you’ve done so wrong to put yourself in that situation,” he added. “It’s a very shameful place to find oneself and feel too much embarrassment or shame to reach out for help because someone my age should have figured it out by now. I felt too little self-worth to ask anyone for help because I wouldn’t dare want any of my family or friends to see me in the condition in which I was living.”
Cedars-Sinai is also helping by providing funding.
“Cedars-Sinai has long cared for older adults by investing in partnerships to provide for those most underserved,” said Jonathan Schreiber, Vice President of Community Engagement, Cedars-Sinai. “By providing the core initial funding to United Way of Greater Los Angeles to develop this strategic roadmap and collaboration, we strengthen our shared commitment to end homelessness among older adults.”