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The United States is getting older. Much older. 

As the Institute of Family Studies recently noted, the proportion of individuals aged 65 and above in the United States is expected to increase in the coming years, surpassing the overall population growth by nearly 20 percentage points by 2030. There are legitimate concerns that a crisis in senior homelessness is on the horizon. 

Historically, senior homelessness has not been a major concern for the government due to the relatively shorter lifespan of homeless individuals. The average life expectancy in the United States is 76.4 years. Studies on homeless mortality often reveal an average age in the early 50s. 

Consequently, as the report notes, many unsheltered homeless individuals in their forties can be considered as functionally "seniors." Nevertheless, if the number of seniors increases, particularly those with characteristics that make them more susceptible to homelessness, the government may face a larger population of homeless senior citizens. Several "risk factors" contribute to homelessness, one of which is social isolation, a troubling phenomenon that is spreading like wildfire. 

Senior man looking out of window at home

One of the problems for seniors is social isolation which is on the increase. (iStock)

Contrary to popular opinion, many individuals do not become homeless solely due to financial difficulties, at least not immediately. Homelessness often occurs when individuals lack meaningful relationships.  

Family relationships serve as the primary safeguard against economic hardships. However, the breakdown in traditional family structures has resulted in the number of seniors living alone has recently risen both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the total population. 

Moreover, the inclination toward independent senior living grows as societies become more affluent. "Developed" societies, note the IFS researchers, are more inclined to perceive an 80-year-old individual living alone as a manifestation of self-reliance, rather than a sign of societal neglect.  

With an increasing number of individuals living alone, there is a higher likelihood of elderly individuals passing away and their bodies remaining undiscovered for days. Additionally, there is an increased risk of senior homelessness. 

Interestingly (and worryingly), smaller families may also pose a risk to society as a whole. In eras where having four or more children was not considered countercultural, society was better equipped to handle issues like chronic mental illness and elder care. Adult children who appreciate their parents have long served as a safety net for retirement.  

It is logical to assume that an increase in childlessness will put more strain on government support systems. In discussions about retirement policies, conservatives have tended to downplay the possibility of poverty in old age. This is because conservatives believe that progressives exaggerate the threat of a widespread "retirement crisis" in order to gain support for expanding the welfare state.  

Although this concern is not unfounded, it blinds us from seeing the reality of the situation. The majority of households are not adequately prepared for retirement. Almost one-quarter of the U.S. population has no emergency savings.  

Currently, there are 650,000 homeless individuals in America. Although President Joe Biden plans to cut homelessness numbers, his plan looks likely to fail. That’s because The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is an absolute mess.  

The executive branch agency responsible for shaping affordable housing and rental policy in the U.S., refuses to say whether it is spending money improperly. For years, HUD officials have been unable to estimate the amount of incorrect funds paid out by two housing offices, which make up more than two-thirds of the department's total annual expenditures.  

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Rather incredibly, according to an inspector general report released earlier this year, officials don’t expect to have an estimate for another three years. To compound matters, the crisis at the border, with migrants pouring into the US, is intersecting with the housing crisis.  

As Axios has reported, addressing even a small portion of the shelter issue is proving to be expensive for state and local governments. In short, cities are lacking in affordable housing options, adequate shelters and sufficient funds to assist all those in need, which is stretching already limited resources and resulting in thousands of individuals being left without proper housing. 

Currently, there are 650,000 homeless individuals in America. Although President Joe Biden plans to cut homelessness numbers, his plan looks likely to fail. That’s because The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is an absolute mess.??

Although senior homelessness is not yet considered a full-blown crisis, the clock is ticking. Meanwhile, the agency responsible for helping those most in need is in a state of chaos, while the southern border remains as porous as ever.  

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Now is the time for lawmakers to address the problems, before it’s too late. Homelessness is not just a housing issue. It is a human rights issue. Homelessness is also a national security threat. It undermines the economic competitiveness of a country.  

No one should be forced to live on the streets, especially not senior citizens.  

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