There are at least 27,487 people across the state of Florida that are homeless and this is a problem. Rates of homelessness are becoming more of a challenge across the U.S. and not just in Florida alone. However, a lot of these people who are currently without a home are over the age of 55 and this is where the issue sets in. More and more older adults are finding themselves in a financial bind and with limited resources to combat the problem.
Many seniors in the region are dealing with financial hardships, leading to a surge in homeless elderly individuals and while this is a concern for almost anyone in this type of economy today, it’s more of a concern for older adults. This is because seniors don’t often have the same advantages as those who are younger may have…not in age, health, or the ability to work as much as they probably would like. We’re going to dive a bit further into the harsh realities faced by our senior population and hopefully raise more awareness of the challenges they encounter and the efforts being made to combat this growing crisis across the state
An Unforeseen Struggle For Florida Citizens
Imagine reaching the age of 65, only to find oneself battling the harsh winds of homelessness. Maria, a senior resident of South Florida, never anticipated such a turn of events. She and her 95-year-old mother have faced an uphill battle, struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Escalating rents that ballooned from $1,000 to nearly $1,600 a month forced them out of their apartment, leaving them evicted and without a home. “She often wakes up not knowing where they are going to be next. This is a reality that is simply frightening for anyone.
Depleting savings can keep Florida citizens afloat but so long because it’s not only rent and utilities that you have to cover. You also have to have a way to cover groceries, gas, emergencies, and anything else that may come up. For a lot of Americans, people generally can’t afford to cover an unexpected emergency. If someone blows a tire while driving, a new tire is something that could set you back a fair amount of money and it’s also something that’s needed because you often need a vehicle to get from point A to point B. This is an example of a type of emergency that causes a domino effect and a lot of older adults, or anyone of any age for that matter, often aren’t prepared for it amid other life challenges.
Maria, during the challenges she was facing, found a sanctuary in Mia Casa, a seniors-only community owned by the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.
The Silver Tsunami Hits Florida
In case you haven’t heard the term before, the “Silver Tsunami,” is a term used to describe the wave of homelessness among seniors. Ron Book, Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, expressed his astonishment at witnessing the elderly become the face of homelessness. In recent years, the trust’s efforts to provide housing to seniors have increased significantly, reflecting the alarming trend.
The number of homeless seniors seeking assistance has risen from 3,086 in 2018 to 3,732 in the following year. Shockingly, nearly one in every three homeless individuals in Miami-Dade is aged 55 and above, presenting an unsettling picture of the challenges seniors are having to deal with.
The crisis isn’t confined to Miami-Dade alone though. It’s something widespread across different Florida Counties. It’s also not only restricted to the state of Florida. Concerning rates of homelessness have also become a national problem.
The Factors Fueling Homelessness Among Seniors
While seniors across the region face the difficult reality of homelessness, multiple factors have exacerbated this crisis. One significant element is the escalating cost of housing. Florida’s housing market, which had been thriving, saw a dramatic spike in median home prices, climbing by more than 61% in less than three years.
Simultaneously, over 53% of renters in the state grappled with housing burdens, where more than 30% of their income was dedicated to rent and utilities. This type of reality has become the norm for a lot of people and it’s difficult enough for those that are able to work regular jobs and that are in good health. Imagine being someone of older age with more health challenges and unable to work full time.
The aftermath of hurricanes Ian and Nicole inflicted a further blow during their time making affordable homes inaccessible to the most vulnerable members of most societies…seniors. These natural disasters, coupled with housing market fluctuations, have created an actual storm that threatens to leave many seniors without a place to call home.
An Urgent Call for Intervention
Increased homelessness in Florida as of 2023 is still an ongoing concern and it’s something that can’t be ignored much longer. Experts are predicting that without swift intervention, the crisis could intensify which could be the start of a discouraging cycle. The widening gap between housing costs and seniors’ fixed incomes is an issue that demands urgent attention and the simple fact is that the state must step in to protect its most vulnerable citizens, especially those who may not have a high enough fixed income along with other challenges like limited resources, issues with mobility, and even health problems that could prevent them from working.
Anne Ray of the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida said that, “A storm like this comes along and we could lose that critical supply of affordable housing.” It’s a pivotal moment for Florida to reassess its policies, prioritize the needs of its elderly population, and bridge the gap between housing costs and what should be considered actually affordable.
Could Hope on the Horizon for Florida Seniors?
Efforts to create more affordable housing are being undertaken across multiple cities in Florida. Initiatives such as Palm Beach’s $200 million ballot measure to create affordable homes over the next decade signify a step in the right direction for this type of positive change. However, the battle is still going uphill, as the need for affordable housing far surpasses the available resources that the state currently has.
The question is still looming; Will local leaders rise to the occasion and proactively address this crisis? Or, will the struggles of seniors across Florida, and even other parts of the nation continue to seemingly be overlooked? The answer is only going to be determined based on time and it’s something that we have to wait and see how it plays out. Hopefully, during this time, more Florida citizens will look to be more involved in initiatives that directly affect seniors.
In a state renowned for its vibrant landscapes and endless sunshine, the potential of a homelessness epidemic isn’t impossible and it’s something that demands our collective attention in the terms of helping seniors. It’s time to bring this issue to the community and extend a helping hand wherever it might be needed which right now, it seems like it could be anywhere across the state.