In cities like San Diego, the problem is growing. For every ten people in San Diego who are successfully housed, 13 more people become unhoused. This is not sustainable, and it certainly not humane.

Serving Older Adults in San Diego

At Serving Seniors, a San Diego-based nonprofit offering supportive services to low income and homeless older adults, we recognize the frustration building among residents, business owners, and civic leaders struggling to comprehend the problem and develop solutions. We feel it, too.

When we learned through our 2021 Serving Seniors Needs Assessment that one in four of our region’s adults experiencing homelessness is age 55 or over — and that the number of homeless adults over age 55 is projected to triple over the next decade — we knew we needed to double down on our efforts to go beyond providing for immediate needs (such as meals, social activities, and personalized case management).

In the long term, affordable housing is vital to achieving a lasting solution to older adult homelessness. It was no small celebration when our Harris Family Senior Housing in San Diego’s midtown City Heights neighborhood held its ribbon cutting on November 14, 2022, providing 117 apartments for older adults. Serving Seniors will break ground on the first phase of an exciting 174-unit senior housing complex in San Diego’s suburban Clairemont neighborhood this year. It will also include a senior center for the community.

Yes, it takes time to guide these projects from start to finish. But there’s reason for those of us concerned about this issue to have optimism moving forward in getting a handle on this human tragedy.

How Targeting Funds Can Provide Immediate Help

Targeting these economic forces directly can provide immediate help to people, allowing providers to focus remaining resources on those who need more significant assistance.

Two new pilot programs addressing prevention of older adult homelessness are now underway at the County of San Diego and the City of San Diego. Both implement a “shallow rental subsidy” approach, using small monthly stipends to avoid evictions instead of struggling to shelter people after the fact. Not only can this approach provide a more humane solution, but it saves money. Comparing the cost of a proposed $500 monthly subsidy with emergency shelter operating costs of between $2,500 to $6,000 per person monthly (depending on the type of services offered), the proposed monthly rental subsidy option would save thousands of dollars.

Replicating Success

Similar programs have proven successful in King County, WashingtonOakland, California; the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Salvation Army, which has prioritized 20 percent of its funding to adults aged 55 and older.