The unspoken homeless crisis: Supporting our seniors

San Diego County has seen a spike in homelessness among our senior citizens and we have not done enough to raise the priority and visibility of this critical need.  By some research accounts, senior citizens make up the fastest growing proportion of San Diego’s homeless individuals in recent years.  This Voice of San Diego article helps highlight some of the challenges. The data for our region makes clear that the County must act.

In this article by long-time senior activist Bill Kelly, he sounds an important alarm that we as County residents have not been heeding with nearly enough urgency. A few key statistics help highlight the challenges:

  • Approximately 240,000 seniors in San Diego County cannot afford the basic combination of food, housing, healthcare and transportation
  • Social Security payment average around $1,360 despite basic expenses exceeding $1,900
  • Ratio of working age individuals to seniors is shifting from 3-to-1 to 1-to-1 over coming decades

The truth about our existing – and growing – crisis among seniors for healthcare, housing, transportation, and even basic food security is that this is a serious problem for all of us, regardless of income.  Seniors in failing health are disproportionately cared for by their female children – compounding the challenges women face while trying to close a persistent wage gap and, often, maintain primary responsibilities for children.  The issue is also especially acute for members of the LGBTQ community, as our government policies long made it illegal to even have children – which places greater strain on individuals and peer networks.

The challenges are significant but help exists. St. Paul’s Senior Services runs the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is exactly the type of comprehensive senior support that makes a huge difference.  The challenge is that we have not sounded the alarm regarding scaling our support for such programs. PACE is funded by state MediCal coverage – which is health coverage for poor residents.  I took a tour of St. Paul’s to make sure I had a firsthand appreciation of the issues.

As San Diegans look to shoring up our fraying and unstable safety net in the county, elevating system supports like this one will become critical. An important step in the process is making sure more people understand the crisis we are in so we can build the will now to address it. That’s exactly what I am pushing to do. Thanks for reading.

Omar Passons