Rising numbers of elderly on the streets

LOS ANGELES At more than 70 years old, Ms. Marilyn puts a human face on the growing problem of elderly homelessness.

A new study finds that adults 62 years and older are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in Los Angeles.

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"There's no problem with paying the rent. I just can't pay the moving costs. That's what's killing me," Ms Marilyn said to the City Council.

She and three others told their stories to the Council's ad hoc committee on homelessness meeting Thursday inside the 650-bed New Image Shelter, the largest in the city.

The study, conducted by Shelter Partnership Inc., found that on any given night in Los Angeles County, there are between 3,000 to 4,000 older adults who are homeless. More than two thirds of those are men.

"My situation is a situation I never thought I'd be in. I was pretty stable for awhile, and then I got sick and I couldn't work anymore," said homeless man Robert Lockhardt.

The sisters who run the shelter admit the problem is daunting. "Their biggest obstacle is the lack of affordable housing. They cannot make enough or do not make enough money to be able to move into any type of permanent sustainable housing," said Brenda Wilson of New Image Shelter.

She said the shelter had to turn away more than 139 people Wednesday night.

Councilwoman Jan Perry said the committee hopes to develop a strategic plan for permanent support and housing for elderly people who are homeless.

"One of the things we may end up doing is earmarking a percentage of money that goes into the affordable housing trust fund to devote that to construction for permanent supportive housing for people who are elderly," Perry said.

The long term goal is that when these seniors and others like them look to their twilight years, having a place to live will be the least of their worries.


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