Snow On The Roof

Posted: August 24, 2007 in Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality

When I was growing up, we weren’t all that worried about being politically correct or using euphemisms. In fact, we didn’t have senior citizens back then – they were old folks.

I’m at the half century mark myself. I don’t really think of that as being old – but then again, I am not a spring chicken either. But to tell you the truth, the only time I really think about my age is when I start feeling aches and pains in places that I never knew a person could have them. Then of course, there are times when I want to do something and my body says: "Go ahead. I’ll wait for you here!"  

Although most people conceive of homeless people as being drunken winos, the statistics indicate something vastly different. One segment of the homeless community that very few people see are senior citizens.

According to a fact sheet published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, a 2004 study indicates that approximately 6% of America’s homeless are aged 55 to 64. That percentage would mean that there are roughly some 250,000 homeless seniors in our nation.

Seniors become homeless for a variety of reasons, but like most people who become homeless, it all centers on the lack of adequate finances to afford proper housing.

Senior citizens on fixed incomes can become homeless much more quickly that those who are in the middle-aged group because, being on fixed incomes, the little resources that they have available to them can be interrupted without notice: a late social security check, an unexpected need to purchase additional medications and so forth.

Once a senior finds themselves on the streets, the increasing lack of affordable housing makes it more difficult for them to regain a secure foot hold, thus limiting their ability to escape homelessness.

Because of their age, the are at risk of being victimized or taken advantage of by younger homeless who view seniors as an "easy" mark – a way of getting money. This, in turn, causes many seniors to try and avoid homeless shelters or day centers for the homeless.

By avoiding such facilities, seniors place themselves at a disadvantage. Not only are their basic need for food and shelter not met, but any health issues they have may worsen as a result of not seeking aid. Even when they do avail themselves of homeless support services agencies; special dietary needs some senior have often times go ignored. This places homeless seniors at greater risk for increased medical problems than their non-homeless counterparts.

Those who came before us laid down the foundations on which we live our lives. If we disregard our elders; if we treat them as disposable people, should we be surprised if those who come after us treat us with the same disregard?

After all, they will have learned by our example…

…Is that what we really want?

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