Of 155,000 seniors living in San Francisco, according to a report by the city’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, roughly 19,000 live below the federal poverty line: $10,326 per year for a single person age 65 or older, or $13,014 for a two-person household. Based on the Elder Economic Security Standard Index, 61 percent of San Francisco’s seniors don’t have enough income to meet their basic needs. Meanwhile, the country has endured years of trickle-down economics, welfare cutbacks, rising income inequality, attacks on unions and the privatization of public services. Those are only some of the factors WRAP spelled out as causes of homelessness in its report “Without Housing.” And perhaps the biggest factor affecting older homeless women: the government turned housing over to the private market in the 1970s, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget was slashed by 77 percent between 1978 and 1983.
No wonder Paul Boden of WRAP said that the situation for the older homeless population has gotten progressively worse since the 1980s. “Back then, I could get a senior a nice room in an SRO hotel within the Section 8 program,” he told me. “Today, you can’t get them shit.”