March 10, 2023

Older Adults Are Half of Nation’s Homeless Population

On March 8, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development held a hearing, “The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” Witnesses were Jeff Olivet, Executive Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and Dr. Richard Cho, Senior Advisor for Housing and Services, HUD. Mr. Olivet called homelessness a “life-and-death public health crisis” and said that, over the course of a year more than 1.2 million people experience homelessness.

“Older Americans—who face the same rising housing costs as everyone else, but often with fixed incomes and rising health needs—are one of the fastest-growing groups of people experiencing homelessness. Single adults over 50 now make up half of the homeless population, and if nothing changes in the next 15 years, Harvard University estimates that an additional 2.4 million seniors in the U.S. will have no access to affordable housing.

“Further, adults who experience homelessness age faster than their housed peers, with elevated rates of serious, chronic, and often avoidable medical conditions,” Mr. Olivet said. Dr. Cho testified that communities have housing intervention resources for every veteran experiencing homelessness; for families with children, communities have resources for only one of every three such families; for other individuals, communities only have housing interventions for one of every seven individuals who need one.