Aging in homelessness | More baby boomers live on the streets or at risk

Some older people on the First Coast live on the edge of poverty. Many cannot afford to pay the rising cost of rent. More and more baby boomers live on the streets.

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. The face of the homeless is changing. Research shows that the number of homeless people aged 65 and over will triple by 2030. Homelessness is a scary situation that anyone can imagine, but the over-55 age group, the baby boomers, have additional concerns. Some have health or mobility problems for which emergency shelters are not equipped. And they fall into two of the most dangerous categories for heat-related illnesses, being elderly and non-residential.

“It’s very disturbing,” said Dawn Gilman, CEO of Change Homeless. “If you go to those areas of our community where you can see the crowds of people living on the streets, you will notice the faces of the older generation. You will notice older people who have mobility issues.”

Preliminary results from Change Homelessness’s recent survey of the homeless population in Duval, Nassau and Clay Counties show that the number of people aged 55 and over has increased by six percent in just six months. Growth from 25% in January to 31% in July.

First Coast News filmed our cameras inside Jim Paris’ Honda where he lived for 2.5 years. He was part of the boomer generation, a group that quickly became the largest portion of our country’s homeless population.

“I’m glad I have a car, but every time I get in the car, it takes me back there, and oh, that’s not good,” Paris said.

Paris once owned his own company. “I worked in the field of access control,” he said.

The father of one tells FCN that life’s ups and downs have led to him working in a convenience store without making enough money to make a living.

“I didn’t have enough money to make a down payment on an apartment, and I began to live on the street,” said Paris. “I used to see the homeless and say, ‘Oh my God, I could never be there.’ But you know it won’t take long for that to happen. And then it happened.”

Due to limited mobility while living in his car, physical and mental health problems crept in. Paris is in the hospital. It was there that he met a social worker for Change Homelessness. He says she changed his life.

“I’m starting to rebuild my health and moving forward,” Paris said.

The agency helped him access resources to put him in his own apartment, where he has been living since January.

“It’s a solvable problem,” Gilman said.

She is working with the new city hall administration to prioritize funding to address the issue.

“We’re looking at different ways to really focus resources to be able to quickly identify people in a housing crisis or literally homeless, aged 55 and over, and then where is the best place for them to go to have a home,” Gilman said.

Some older people on the First Coast live on the edge of poverty. Many cannot afford to pay the rising cost of rent. Gilman explains that most seniors have a fixed income, and while house prices may rise, their incomes will remain the same. If you’re in such a predicament, Gilman suggests talking to your landlord about what you can afford. She says you must protect yourself.

Changing Homeiety works with 40 First Coast agencies to help the homeless. If you know someone who needs help, they can write to [email protected].

FCN is at your side talking to the experts about preparing for retirement. Financial advisor Nathaniel Herring is a partner at the nonprofit Wealth Watchers. He says that as you approach retirement age, contact the Social Security Administration to find out if you qualify for assistance and to get an estimate of your Social Security payments. And take full advantage of savings plans like the IRA, 401K, and TSA.

Wealth Watchers Inc. is a not-for-profit housing counseling and community development organization based in Jacksonville that provides services in Florida and Georgia.

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