The Homeless and Elderly Population BSHS 301 February 8, 2010 The Homeless & Elderly Population As we seek pleasure, we often forget our purpose in life. We feed our egos as we like, but there is one thing that humans don’t know is that all of us have access to opportunities like those who think they have everything in life. But unfortunately not all of us are capable of seeing the poverty in our society. Not all homeless people chose to live in the streets or shelters, especially the elderly. If a person believes this, then their perception is ignorant and unaware. (Nancy Del Castillo, 2010) Homelessness is a global issue.
The cause of homelessness is varied and most people ignore homelessness as if it should be normal to see it n contemporary society. The number of homelessness has been very high in the recent years. Our goal for those in the Human Services field is to promote awareness and compassion about homelessness in our society and the rest for the world by providing the real facts. It is heartless to remain in a cage of selfishness while our fellow human beings endure the pain of cold and lack of food, especially for the elderly population in which continue to be a forgotten population.
As human beings, we are capable of much more. It is believed that the origin of homelessness is traced back during colonial America. As early as 1640, the English “vagrants” were listed as outcast individuals and the police were after them. The homeless people were regarded as “Sturdy beggars” in the mid eighteenth century and they were found in every corner of the colonial towns. The problem of homelessness at that period was a result of the King Philip’ War of 1675-1676 against the native people. Many colonies were driven out of their homes to see shelter in the forest.
But as the war continue between the French and Indians, the securities of some families were threatened and forced many families to become refugees across the frontier areas like New England and New York. Homelessness is a complex social problem. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless in “How Many People Experience Homelessness? ” (http://www. nationalhomeless. org/numbers. html, September 2002), one-half to three-quarters of a million people lack a place to sleep on any given night in the United States, and 3. million will be homeless at some time during the year. Social researchers—educators, sociologists, economists, and political scientists—have studied homelessness in the past and present and have determined that homelessness is caused by a combination of poverty, misfortune, illness, and behavior. Many people view homelessness as a fringe issue, affecting only certain kinds of people on the edges of society. This view does not reflect the changing demographics of homelessness in the United States, including a steady rise in homelessness among families with Children.
Elderly homeless persons report being without shelter for far longer periods than younger individuals, with elder men reporting an average homeless episode lasting over 60 days, and younger episodes without a permanent shelter, some reporting homeless episodes of over two years, whereas younger men reported being homeless an average of 11 months (Hecht & Coyle, 2001). This is likely due to less social support and the difficulty in either moving in with a roommate or living with family, often due to caretaking issues related to common age-related physical problems.
The response to elders who are homeless must be vastly different due to all of the variables associated with their advanced age. One variable mentioned relates to the diminished capacity of the elderly in getting back on their feet by finding new employment opportunities or entering a reeducation program to enter a new career, thus the possibility of regaining financial independence is greatly diminished in the elderly population. Other issues affecting the elderly population includes their increased vulnerability both physically and psychologically, leaving them open to physical and financial victimization.
Physical disability and illness are also complicated factors in meeting the needs of the elderly homeless population. One Night Count remains the largest community-organized count in the United States. Since 1980, SKCCH and Operation Nightwatch have organized the One Night Count of people who are without shelter. Over 900 volunteers, like me go out at 2:00 am counting the people sleeping outdoors in King County. We all go out with trained team leaders to pre-arranged areas in parts of Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Shoreline, Kenmore, Bothell, Woodinville, Kent, Federal Way, Renton, Auburn, and White Center.
All together we counted 2,759 people living outside in King County. We counted children, adults, and seniors, some huddled in doorways, some sleeping in cars, others camped in green spaces or sheltered in makeshift campsites. One night count collected information from select hospitals about emergency room usage, and from Metro night owl buses operating throughout the county. The 2010 total number of people counted living on the streets of King County is 5% lower than the numbers counted in 2009. The unsheltered number released does not include the estimate 5,800 people staying in emergency shelter and transitional housing overnight.
Working with the homeless population is a challenging as it is meaningful. Whether a homeless client is a grown man, and elder, a child, or entire family being homeless is traumatic, degrading, and for many actually terrifying as one’s foundation slips away without any sort of safety net to stop the fall. I see it every day; when I volunteer for the Catholic Community Service, HOME/ARISE shelter for men. But what I especially see if how many elderly I saw this weekend, somebody’s father, grandfather and great grandfather.
The process of becoming homeless, which typically comes on the heels of months or years of financial and residential instability, is extreme stressful and often leads to anxiety disorders, depression, loss of self-esteem, substance abuse, and even personality disorders as individuals respond to the harshness of life in various maladaptive and defensive ways. Demographics exist, but no national statistics that provide an accurate count of elder homelessness. Some studies estimate that the elderly compose only 2. percent of all homeless persons (Cohen, 1999), while other data indicate that 6 percent of homeless clients are between 55 and 64 years old, and another 2 percent are 65 years of age and older (Interagency Council on the Homeless, December 1999). Still other surveys estimate that up to 10-15 percent of homeless persons are elderly (Gardner, 1999). In 1988, Tully (Tully & Jacobson, 1994) found that 27 percent of homeless persons were over the age of 60. Intervention strategies come in when the human services field is to empower clients by plugging them into a variety of social support systems moving them toward a stated of self-sufficiency.
Providing services such as; emergency housing, shelters, case management, counseling, transitional housing, child care, education training and substance abuse treatment and following with our clients for aftercare, as we do in Katherine’s House, when a resident moves out, we provide one year after follow-up care, it gives the resident a chance to still come by and let us know if they need any resources or information. As a Human Service professional, I believe that we could do more than what we doing now.
I know that with the inflation and hard times are difficult to help another person, when you are in need yourself. Is not always monetary in a way of helping, is about being able to direct someone with resources and sometimes is just about going into the shelters and helping out to feed the homeless, bring blankets, bring in some toiletries and most of all share all the resources that you have. For future considerations the state, government need to really open their eyes and see where the need is at, build more shelters, emergency and transitional housing.
References Martin, M. E. (2007). Introduction to Human Services: Through the Eyes of Practice Settings. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon Publishing. HRSA U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Health Resources and Service Administration. Retrieved on February 8, 2010 from http://bphc. hrsa. gov/policy/pal0303. htm Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, One Night Count. Retrieved on February 8, 2010 from http://www. homelessinfo. org/one_night_count. htm Del Castillo, N. (2010).