They should be enjoying their retirement years, but instead, they’re wondering where they’ll be sleeping tonight.
It’s a heartbreaking situation: older adults, some who worked and saved, are now homeless. What’s driving this troubling trend? Kimberly Bookman has tonight’s 7 Investigates.
The streets were the only place Cynthia Gray had to stay.
“It’s not easy at all,” Cynthia said.
The 67-year-old worked as a school bus and truck driver.
Then she got sick, couldn’t work, couldn’t pay rent, and became homeless.
“I stand in line for shelters, and they’re full. That means we have to think of something, where we’re going to hide, where we’re going to go. I hid with others. I did some basements that we didn’t belong in the building. We just hid,” Cynthia said.
Cynthia isn’t alone.
In Boston, about 1700 adults over the age of 55 are experiencing homelessness.
443 of those people are older than 65.
“I always used to envy the elderly when I was younger because they looked like they were enjoying life. But I found out it’s not the case. You really won’t believe how many elderly people are out there. There’s a lot of us dying out in the street,” Cynthia said.
Some older adults, often with low incomes or living on social security, can’t find affordable housing.
“All the prices are driven up by the scarcity. We stopped building affordable housing at anything near the scale that we need to,” Mark Hinderlie, president of Hearth, said. The nonprofit organization focuses exclusively on helping seniors facing homelessness.
The problem brings tears to his eyes.
“I feel like we’ve squandered, we’ve squandered lives, and it’s been developing for such a long time. It didn’t have to be this way. I didn’t have to get this bad. No one should have to go through it,” Mark said.
Newton White lived through it.
The 69-year-old lost his job as an auto mechanic and was homeless for three years.
“The rent keeps going up, and I couldn’t afford it,” Newton said.
But those days are behind Newton and Cynthia.
Both just got keys to new homes through Hearth and 2Life Communities, another nonprofit group connecting seniors with a place to live.
“I am so happy in my heart,” Cynthia said. “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had my own bed and to lie in my own room and my own place?”
Hearth has helped 3,000 seniors find permanent homes, and the organization is working to expand the amount of affordable housing in Massachusetts.
Cynthia says if you or someone you know is facing homelessness, there are resources to help.
“There is a future because I know I’m experiencing that now. All I can say is don’t give up,” Cynthia said.
Cynthia hopes her success story will inspire others.
City of Boston officials tell 7 Investigates they’re also working on finding more affordable housing of all kinds for people, including seniors.
For information and resources:
City of Boston Housing Help for Older People
An overview of production in the Boston Income Restricted Housing Report
Resources for seniors in the city at the AgeStrong Boston Commission
Anyone dealing with housing instability or evictions can get help from the Boston Office of Housing Stability A Massachusetts Guide to Obtaining Housing Assistance for state residents
Rental assistance programs in MA
Rental assistance programs in NH
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