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Why Is It Important to Count?
It is difficult to determine just how many older adults are currently homeless, on a national scale. Not knowing the true size of the population makes it hard to measure progress in preventing and ending homelessness.
Clearer data collection and reporting on older adults would not only help to foster data-driven policy, but also help providers to tailor services to their distinct needs. This would provide a clearer picture of not only the number of older adults experiencing homelessness, but also their characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, disabilities, mental health issues. As older adult homelessness rises, the need for an accurate picture of who experiences homelessness will be important to ensure that providers are equipped with the resources to serve this population on a national scale.
Gathering Data from Multiple Sources: PIT, LSA and HIC
Each year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) submits a report to Congress that provides nationwide estimates of homelessness, including information about the demographic characteristics of individuals experiencing homelessness, service use patterns, and the capacity to house individuals experiencing homelessness.
What Would Help to Better Understand Older Adult Homelessness?
The current data collection and reporting limits the understanding of the scope of homelessness among older adults and the ability to identify any service gaps, racial and ethnic disparities, etc. Therefore, recommendations include:
Expand the HUD age range in Point-in-Time Counts from the “Over 24” category, to determine data on the number of older adults and analyze characteristics. It would be helpful to align the age range with the age range used in the Annual Performance Report (APR).
Publish raw data and/or cohort data on various other demographics within older adult homelessness such as race, ethnicity, disability, and service utilization and outcomes.
Include a section in the AHAR and APR specifically on older adults.
Request the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics (Forum), whose goal is to improve aging-related data, focus its efforts on homelessness among older adults. The Forum has played a key role by critically evaluating existing data resources and limitations, stimulating new database development, encouraging cooperation and data sharing among Federal agencies, and preparing collaborative statistical reports.
Read the full article about the older adult homeless population by Yolanda Stevens at National Alliance to End Homelessness.