Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sometimes it just sucks.

Tonight is a crappy, rainy night in Seattle. In a few minutes I'm going home to crawl into bed with a warm peace-loving red-blooded woman who has loved me for 34 years.
I don't really have to care about the fact that ten or fifteen guys walked out Operation Nightwatch with absolutely no place to go. We fed them, let them sit around for awhile, gave them socks and a wool blanket and ticket for the #7 bus to nowhere.
But I do care. That's what makes this so tough.
In two more weeks the winter shelters are going to shut down. Another 50 guys are going to be dumped outside, and 40 women will be pushed out sometime in April.
The One Night Count was down 5%? Sure doesn't seem like it tonight.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Homeless and old - a bad combination

Homelessness is an especially dangerous state for an aging person.
According to a 2007 HUD report, people who experience homelessness for long periods of time simply do not reach age 62 as often as the general population. (HUD, The Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, 2007).
Premature death most often results from acute and chronic medical conditions aggravated by homeless life rather than either mental illness or substance abuse (O’Connell, James J. Premature Mortality in Homeless Populations: A Review of the Literature, 2005).

Despite the risk factors, the total number of homeless elderly has grown in the past two decades (Carl Cohen, “The Aging Homeless,” SUNY Health Science Center, Brooklyn, NY). Throughout the nation, there are at least 9 seniors waiting for every occupied unit of affordable housing (Nat’l. Coalition for the Homeless, “Homelessness Among Elderly Persons”). The need for affordable housing for seniors living in poverty will continue.
Meanwhile, even basic overnight shelter for older adults (say, over 50, no offense!) is scarce.