Broken Boomers

Getting old is hard. Especially if you’re homeless.

One man who came to our doors for lunch at the Mission told us, “It’s dangerous on the streets for older people who are homeless. I’ve been beaten and robbed by the younger people…It was a gang initiation of some kind. I had $28 in my pocket. They beat me up with a pipe but I still had the $28.”

His story is just one indication of the danger of the streets, especially for aging people. And the numbers in that category are rising. Since 2015, the number of homeless older adults (55+) has increased 25%. In 2018, over 1,000 people in this category were homeless.

Making up 10% of the homeless population in Minnesota, boomers are broken and bruised in our communities.

“…the number of homeless adults (55+) has increased 25%.”

Wilder Research

Aging compounds the problems of homelessness. According to a study by Wilder Research, 71% of homeless older adults have a chronic physical health condition, 49% have a serious mental illness, and 24% have a substance abuse disorder. Sixteen percent report all three.

James Tucker, Program Director of the Bethel Hotel at the Mission, says the Mission helps everyone equally, regardless of age, though he acknowledges the extra challenges older adults face. “Aging makes homelessness more difficult because of increased medical needs or lack of family support. The scope of someone’s problems is not always fully known; because these individuals lack trust, we don’t always hear the full story, so we can’t always help them to the full extent. But the resources they receive depend on what they qualify for. There are barriers to who will accept someone or what they qualify for.”

According to the Wilder study, older adults find themselves desperate and alone on the streets due to 3 top cited reasons: eviction or a lease that was not renewed (36%), not being able to afford the rent (35%), or having their job or hours cut (30%). Unfortunately, 45% of this population also said it had been more than a month since they had contact with their families.

Living on the street is never easy, but the hardships this demographic faces is much more than any other age of homeless people. Unemployed homeless adults report that their main barriers to employment are poor physical health, age, lack of housing, lack of transportation, mental health problems, and lack of education.

Our harsh Minnesota weather combined with these circumstances places additional stress on this generation. One older man told us, “There’s age discrimination; people get ‘too old to work.Then if they have a felony record, it’s difficult for people to get back on their feet even if they want to.”

Here at the Mission, your gifts go a long way to help people who are struggling. Food, shelter, medical care, mental health care, education and so much more is available because of you. Thanks to you, vulnerable, helpless people are given new hope.

Want to help? Donate, volunteer, and become aware of the challenges that face this population. America’s elderly facing homelessness are calling for help. Will you answer?

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