The population of older adults experiencing homelessness (ages 55 and over) is growing and vulnerable. Increased demands on homeless service systems demonstrate a need to measure how well these systems are serving older adults and how older adults are exiting into housing.
The Alliance’s latest report, Connecting Older Adults to Housing: Examining Disparities
analyzes the different ways in which older adults exit homelessness by race, ethnicity, gender, age, and shelter status. Based on 2018 data from the Vulnerability Index Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT), it finds that 1) Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) utilization among older adults has been helping them exit homelessness and 2) Black older adults were the least likely to receive housing assistance. This blog post will discuss some key insights on how homeless service systems are housing older adults, and where there are areas to improve.
Rapid Re-Housing Placements for Older Adults
The Alliance’s new report shows that permanent supportive housing (PSH) and Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) were the top housing interventions for older adults exiting homelessness, and RRH utilization increased as older adults aged. Systems may be using RRH as a bridge to other permanent housing options if PSH resources are not available: nearly 23 percent of those 75 and older exited homelessness through RRH, compared to less than 16 percent of those ages 55-64 or 65-74. Older adults also may not qualify for PSH if they do not have any disabling conditions, so systems may turn to RRH instead. However, as the housing market tightens, RRH may become out of reach for a population living on a fixed income, with fewer means of increasing income to pay for housing after their rent subsidy ends.
This report provokes questions about how RRH is used to house older adults. Is RRH associated with long-term housing stability and the overall well-being for this particular population? Are there any negative impacts on older adults when it is used as a gateway to other forms of permanent housing? Exploring these questions further will help to determine which housing interventions are best for this population.
Racial Disparities in Older Adults Exiting Homelessness
This report also found clear racial disparities among older adults exiting homelessness. Not only do Black Americans face higher rates of homelessness in the United States regardless of their share of the local population
and experience higher risks of becoming homeless
in the first place, but older Black adults are the least likely to receive housing assistance in the form of PSH or RRH. Nearly half of the population of older adults experiencing homelessness identified as Black, but less than 41 percent exited through RRH or PSH.
In contrast, White older adults made up 36 percent of the homeless population but received more than half of the PSH placements. As a result, Black and Hispanic older adults were more likely to utilize alternatives outside of the homelessness system to address their housing needs. With these clear disparities, systems and providers should ensure that they are not perpetuating inequities when seeking housing exits for older adults.
This report examines the current landscape of how older adults exit from homelessness to housing, and shows varying results. There are clear racial disparities in these exits, which merits further research. Further research on RRH is also needed to determine how this intervention impacts the well-being and long-term housing outcomes of older adults experiencing homelessness. Additional studies must also focus on racial and gender dynamics, including participation barriers and housing stability over time.
Read the full report and findings here
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