Old and Homeless--Double-Jeopardy: An Overview of Current Practice and Policies

Old and Homeless--Double-Jeopardy: An Overview of Current Practice and Policies

Old and Homeless--Double-Jeopardy: An Overview of Current Practice and Policies

Old and Homeless--Double-Jeopardy: An Overview of Current Practice and Policies

Synopsis

The growing number of homeless people over age 50 has reached epidemic proportions. It is important to recognize that this group has special needs and demands from health factors to safety. This book is a resource for professionals training and working with this homeless contingent.

Excerpt

Harold L. Sheppard

A major principle in the study of aging is the concept of heterogeneity. This volume is a dynamic testimony to that principle because it demonstrates, first, that there is no such phenomenon as the aged: The population of older adults contains a myriad of subgroups, not to mention a number of sub-age groups. Second, older homeless adults themselves are made up of several categories, a point which is amply described in this volume. They are not a homogeneous entity consisting, for example, only of mentally ill men and women. They are not a homogeneous entity consisting only of women who have become victims of divorces, leaving them impoverished in their middle- aged years or later. Other categories of older homeless adults have their portraits sketched herein.

Returning to the discussion of heterogeneity, Florida evokes an image in the public mind of the playgrounds for America's truly leisure class--namely, the senior citizen or "greedy geezer" segment of our society. A reading of Old and Homeless should set that distorted image straight. Economists of aging know of the vast range in income distribution of the 65+ population, of the fact that the range reveals one of the largest indexes of inequality in income distribution. The use of median incomes obscures that inequality. Compared to younger age groups, American older adults are subjected to the greatest gaps between the lowest and the highest of income recipients.

The reasons and the conditions for the emergence of an older homeless adult cohort during the past few decades are discussed in the pages that follow. While many of the homeless suffer problems of mental health, drug addiction, and physical health, we must not assume that these factors are the root cause of homelessness. And we must not ignore the impact of exogenous factors such as inadequate housing policies, economic and employment circumstances, and policies over which the individual has little, if any, control.

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