Meet Tina. Though she is thrilled to have her own one-bedroom place in the new Elk Grove Quail Run Apartments, Tina insisted the story she told was not about her individual journey, but about the struggle of seniors in the current housing climate. As she gestured around her living room, “those of us getting older in California have nowhere to go when our rent is too high. The resources for people like me seem non-existent. Though I am grateful to SSHH and the City of Elk Grove for the apartment, resources are few and far between, considering the number of homeless and rent-burdened seniors.”
On one night in 2019, there were 1,097 homeless older adults in Sacramento County. Around 700, or 65% of homeless seniors were living on the street. This is no surprise considering 18% of all unsheltered persons are over the age of 55.
According to 2019 California numbers, 56% of low-income seniors are severely rent-burdened. Compared to 28% of the general population, seniors are in dire straights. Low-income seniors who rent, numbering more than half a million in California, can be forced to move far from their established social and medical networks to find rentals they can afford; they may end up in substandard housing, or at worst homeless. This has, oftentimes, deadly consequences. Housing instability and homelessness make preserving medication, receiving regular health care services, and getting a vaccine nearly impossible. Those that are rent-burdened are far more likely to miss a medical appointment or avoid healthcare all together due to its costs.
Why are Seniors in California disproportionately susceptible to homelessness? The answer is complex, but can be distilled to two reasons: First, fixed incomes, such as SSI or retirement accounts, can no longer cover the increasing cost of rent. Second, the Capital Region's housing inventory falls short to meet seniors' public and subsidized housing needs.
What helped Tina? Tina is housed because of an innovative partnership between SSHH, Elk Grove HART, the City of Elk Grove, and the “Affordable Housing” Quail Run Apartments. SSHH’s Homeless Outreach Navigator was able to provide wrap-around case management and supportive services to help Tina apply. Thanks to the Navigator’s help, and Tina’s perseverance, she qualified and was chosen to move at the beginning of May.
For perspective, when the Quail Run Apartments announced plans to open 96 new affordable housing units, 28,000 individuals and families applied. More needs to be done.