Columnists

Rising Inflation Hits Homeless Elders Hard

By John Grimaldi
They’re called the “invisibles”— the homeless elders in hiding. These seniors may have a fear of homeless shelters or are just too proud to ask for help and so they hide and take refuge on the streets. It’s a problem that has been with us for decades but has been underreported for the most part. The invisibles are a part of a much larger problem that is clearly exacerbated by the Biden inflationary spiral – currently at 8.5% — that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for older folk on fixed incomes to afford adequate housing.

So, who are the invisibles? You can see their faces and hear their stories at a website appropriately named, Invisible People. It reveals the fact that when you’re homeless, whether you are, young or old, it doesn’t matter, “People avoid eye contact. They step away from you. They don’t answer you if you address them – even if you wish them a good day! It’s painful. It’s debilitating. Over time, it gets worse, not better. There are a lot of bad things about being homeless but being invisible is the worst!”

As regards their stories, they are heart wrenching. Take Monica, for instance, who tells of how she lost her legs as the result of having to live in a tent in Los Angeles. Temperatures were below freezing and she didn’t have enough blankets. Her legs turned purple and she waited too long to go to an emergency room. They amputated both her legs and in time turned her back into the streets “without any support.” And then there is Timothy who tells us that he’s been living in homeless encampments in Los Angeles for some 20 years. Every once in a while the police would sweep the camps and he would have to go find a new shelter. He noted the sweeps are conducted for any number of reasons, including to get them out of sight during an election campaign.

To live like that is particularly hard on homeless seniors. Their numbers are growing rapidly as Kendra Hendry, a caseworker at Arizona’s largest shelter, recently told the Associated Press [AP]: “We’re seeing a huge boom in senior homelessness. These are not necessarily people who have mental illness or substance abuse problems. They are people being pushed into the streets by rising rents.” She reports that homeless elders make up almost a third of the residents in her shelter.

It appears that the conclusion reached in a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 is coming true. It projected that homeless men and women over 55 years of age will grow to 225,000 by 2026 mainly due to the fact that the numbers of Americans over the age of 65 are growing at the rate of 10,000 a day.  And, says the AP, “Academics project their numbers will nearly triple over the next decade, challenging policy makers from Los Angeles to New York to imagine new ideas for sheltering the last of the baby boomers as they get older, sicker and less able to pay spiraling rents. Advocates say much more housing is needed, especially for extremely low-income people.”

And certainly, Bidenflation is making it worse for those homeless because of rising rents and living costs across the board.