Public News Service: Seniors make up growing segment of Arizona’s homeless

Public News Service, September 11, 2019: Seniors make up growing segment of Arizona’s homeless

Being homeless can be difficult for anyone, but social-service agencies say it’s particularly daunting for a growing number of older Arizonans.

These agencies say about one-third of people seeking shelter or other assistance are age 55 or older, and while there are numerous reasons for seniors becoming homeless, the biggest factor is being priced out of Arizona’s tight housing market.

Dana Kennedy, state director of AARP Arizona, said the skyrocketing rents don’t fit many retirees’ relatively low fixed incomes.

“We might need to look at how easy it is to evict somebody,” she said. “So, is there a public policy need? Are there some types of resources that we could tap, and make sure that people who are managing property are aware that there could be some emergency services?”

Other senior concerns are running out of money, facing a serious illness or disability or losing family support. Kennedy said the majority of seniors seeking assistance say they are homeless for the first time in their lives.

Wendy Johnson, executive director of the JUSTA Center, a seniors-only facility in Phoenix with temporary housing and services to help people rebuild their lives, said the center assisted about 250 seniors in 2015 but is on track to help almost 1,200 this year. Still, it’s tough to increase capacity.

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