Middle-aged individuals staying longer in shelters says Drop In transitional housing statistics
Homelessness affects all ages, but as a study conducted by the Calgary Drop In Centre now shows, some people of a certain age range are having a harder time getting back on their feet.
Baby boomers include anyone born from 1946 to 1964, and according to Statistics Canada, in 2014 there were nearly 9.4 million people in that age group across the country. As stated by the report conducted by the Calgary Drop In Centre, since 2001, the percentage of shelter use at the Calgary Drop In and Rehab Centre by individuals 46 or older has doubled to 59.7 per cent.
The Calgary Homeless Foundation's 2013 Annual Report stated that nearly a third of homeless individuals in the city were ages 51 to 64.
"As you get older, it takes longer and longer to move out of the shelter system," says Jordan Hamilton, spokesperson for the Calgary Drop In and Rehab Centre. "It's easy to get a job at 18 if you can lift stuff, but if you are doing that job for 30 years, by the time you hit 50 it's hard to continue doing that job."
The Drop In's transitional housing statistics reveal that younger people, aged 16 to 25, stay in thehousing for an average of 60 days, and the older the age group, the more likely they are to stay longer. Those aged 66 years and older stay at the shelter for an average of 217 days.
"When you think about people who are homeless, it's easy to think it's about mental illness, or addictions—some people even think it's about poverty. But what these numbers actually suggest is another reason for homelessness, which is lack of social capital," says Hamilton.
He also says that as people age, they generally don't have the same large group of friends as they did in their youth, so it could be hard to find help.
"As you get older, it takes longer and longer to move out of the shelter system."
- Jordan Hamilton, Calgary Drop In and Rehab Centre Brandon Waardenburg, director of basic services for The Mustard Seed, says in an email interview that the most common group he sees at the shelter are men aged 39 to 49. Indeed, the Calgary Homeless Foundation's 2013 Annual Report revealed that nearly half of housed individuals were ages 36 to 50. Although this group is slightly younger than the baby boomers, the group is still at risk for similar reasons.
"In my experience, a lot of homeless men are working construction, oil and other labour-intensive work," says Waardenburg. "As the work becomes more and more difficult to do, it becomes harder to find work — they just can't keep up or it's physically impossible to do the same type of work they have experience doing."
In addition, Waardenburg says that factors such as a lack of community or healthy relationships may be some other reasons why people become homeless.
"Housing in Calgary is also a terrible problem right now," Waardenburg says. "With less than a one per cent vacancy rate in the rental community, rental prices are very high and open units are very hard to come by."
In 2008, the Calgary Homeless Foundation unveiled the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. So far, the plan has provided housing support for over 6,000 people.
"Two per cent of shelters' users stay an average of two years or more — these are the individuals the Plan is focused on in order to ensure we end chronic homelessness completely," says Louise Gallagher, director of marketing and communications for the Calgary Homeless Foundation.
- By SKYE ANDERSON