The tree of liberty only grows when watered by the blood of tyrants. Bertrand B de Vieuzac
Canada is one of the richest countries on the planet! Why did the government neglect toward the class most vulnerable of our society? 'Golden Years,' slogan created by the government and used by the propagandistic media to confuse the public the lack of respect, care, abuse and ill treatment by the government institutions against the elderly.
April 12, 2016
By June Chua
The number of seniors who are homeless in Canada is rising dramatically, according to new research.
“They are the new face of homelessness,” said researcher Victoria Burns, who did her PhD on aging and homelessness at McGill University. Burns is talking about people 50 and over — many who have become homeless for the first time.
Burns participated in a larger Canada-wide study that has put together new research on the issue of late life homelessness.
She refers to a one-night homeless count in March 2015 in Montreal which helped researchers examine how many were chronically homeless or were part of the “invisible” homeless population (people who lived in substandard housing or had been evicted due to other circumstances).
“[The count found out] that those 50-plus accounted for 41 per cent of homeless residents,” Burns told Yahoo Canada News. “That means that age group quadrupled over a 20-year period in Montreal.”
The rise in homeless seniors is borne out across the country, according to Amanda Grenier, director of the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging at Hamilton’s McMaster University. She is the lead investigator in a massive study of late life homelessness, which began in 2012 — a study that Burns helped out with.
“It’s a trend because there are, overall, more older people in our society,” Grenier told Yahoo Canada News. “But also, we have older people who fall into it due to circumstances, such as having a precarious job, or they simply can’t pay for the rising cost of their housing or sickness.”
Grenier said the surge in seniors being homeless is common across the country.
In Toronto, homelessness among those 50-plus went from five per cent in 2009 to 10 per cent in 2013, according to the latest statistics the researchers collected.
The Greater Vancouver Shelter Strategy has found that those 55 and older comprised 11 per cent of people in the city’s emergency shelters in 2013 and estimates that seniors could make up 23 per cent of the shelter population this year.
Gap in services
“The problem is we have division of services where we have services for seniors and then separate emergency shelter services focused on younger populations,” Grenier said. “There is a gap for older people who find themselves without housing suddenly.”
Nathan Vedoya, the manager of shelters for the Hope Mission in Edmonton, says his organization is seeing an older population as well.
“We do have a steady flow of seniors coming in and if we aren’t able to care for them, we re-direct them to a hospital if it’s a health issue or other agencies who work closely with seniors,” Vedoya told Yahoo Canada News.
“We also have a large number of people in their 40s and early 50s so we are trying hard to assist them so they don’t end up chronically homeless as they age.”
Many who are suddenly homeless late in life, according to Vedoya, experience something “episodic,” such as a medical condition, or they are laid off or have a divorce triggering a downward spiral.
“Several years ago, I had a client whose wife had passed away, he also had some medical injury, his business turned sour and he didn’t have the right insurance for that and he was deep in debt. When his medical prescriptions ran dry, he became addicted to crystal meth and alcohol,” Vedoya said.
“[He’s now about 65 years old] and he’s chronically homeless. We do what we can for him but there is deep emotional and physical pain there.”
Skyrocketing housing costs
In Montreal, Burns points out that the cost of housing is skyrocketing. The average amount of social assistance that most seniors in Quebec get is about $630 a month, “that’s barely enough for rent here,” she said.
“There is a lack of good quality social housing. The average wait in Montreal is five to seven years. When you’re old, you really need the stability of a home.”
Grenier says Canada needs to think about “the risks that lead people to homelessness.”
“In our study, we found that people only have enough assets to last them two months. So if you lose your job or have to care for a spouse, you could end up in debt and without housing.”
As with Burns, Grenier also suggested policies in which governments tackle the topic of long-term solutions for housing and support for older people and not a system of shelters that are barely able to care for them.