Loading articles...

Expert keeping close eye on homeless count, cites concerns for older people on the streets

Last Updated Mar 13, 2019 at 10:42 am PDT

iStock Photo
Summary

UBC expert says those 55 and older are finding their way onto the streets more often as homeless count is held

Expert says living on the streets can advance a person's aging process, cites need for more supports for older homeless

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Imagine finding yourself without a roof over your head for the first time ever when you’re in your 50s or 60s.

As the annual homeless count in Metro Vancouver takes place, we’re hearing a certain segment of the population is finding its way onto the street more often.

The numbers for this year won’t be finalized for some time, but Sarah Canham with the Simon Fraser University’s Gerontology Research Centre says starting in 2017, there was an increase in the rate of older people experiencing homelessness.

“About 23 per cent of the population of people experiencing homelessness was in that 55 and old rate, and it’s been about stable since then,” she tells NEWS 1130.

“Often times the health of people living on the street has advanced their aging process so that people, we sort of start thinking about people as older when they’re even age 55,” Canham adds.

She explains there are many reasons older people experience housing insecurity in Metro Vancouver, including the cost of living and a lack of support networks.

The risks associated, she says, are quite varied.

“The increase of food, medications, inadequate supports, social isolation, lack of support networks that can help, sort of, prevent people from becoming homeless.”

However, when it comes to a solution, Canham believes it will have to do with more than just simply providing people with an affordable place to live.

“We know that we need more housing, we need more affordable housing, we need more housing with supports embedded in those settings,” she says. “So wrap-around services, or what they call Integrated Case Management, where people’s health, social network and their activities of daily living are all accounted for, all in a single setting.”

Canham says there’s often a focus on individual blame, but believes there are systemic issues at play that “influence people’s chances of becoming homeless.”

She believes it’s important to address those issues rather than focusing on the “blame and shame” associated with those living on the streets.

Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to indicate Sarah Canham is with SFU’s Gerentology Research Centre