United Way Helps Combat Growing Number of Homeless Seniors

United Way addresses the increasing number of homeless seniors in the Lower Mainland

The fastest growing segment of the homeless population in Metro Vancouver is seniors. Between 2002 and 2011, the number of homeless seniors age 65 and up has tripled from 2002 to 2011 according to Metro Vancouver Homeless Count, which is conducted every three years.
United Way of the Lower Mainland sees this trend reflected in agencies that they fund and work with. Hollyburn Family Services on the North Shore gets 20 calls a day from seniors at risk of becoming homeless. Over the past year, Hollyburn’s Housing Risk Program has helped 193 North Shore seniors by providing crisis assistance such as food, housing and transportation, as well as advocating for them to help keep their housing or find alternate arrangements.
One person they were able to help was 75-year-old Maureen. For Maureen, the stresses of helping her seriously ill daughter, grieving her mother’s death, finding a new home and coping with financial uncertainty were too much to bear. Her health began to suffer. “When you’re ill, you can’t cope with anything. You drag yourself out every day, and hope that things are going to get better,” she recalls.
Like Maureen, one in four seniors in the Lower Mainland lives alone, and one in five in poverty. Since retiring last year, she found it difficult to meet her everyday expenses.
“I’ve used my credit card a lot, which racks it up. It still has to be paid, but it’s my backup for when I get down to nothing,” she says. “I just couldn’t meet all the obligations and I had to do something about it.”
Maureen is not alone in accumulating debt. According to data provided to The Vancouver Sun by credit bureau Equifax, average consumer debt for Vancouverites over the age of 65 has nearly doubled since 2007. Analysts postulate that’s because costs are eroding their fixed incomes or they are using savings to help their children in high-priced Vancouver.
Today, Maureen’s daughter’s health is improving and Maureen has found a new place to live. By investing in programs like the Seniors at Housing Risk Program, United Way is helping seniors remain in their homes surrounded by friends and families, and stay connected to their community.
The health and well-being of seniors is one of the priority areas of the United Way of the Lower Mainland. In 2012, United Way of the Lower Mainland invested $3.3 million in donations to support seniors in the Lower Mainland. For more information, visit www.uwlm.ca/prevent-seniors.

Although senior isolation is not often talked about, it is an issue that needs and deserve our attention. Find out more.