Homelessness is an issue of social justice, in the United States, because it leaves people vulnerable, unsafe, and ill, while not having their basic needs for food and shelter met. Although the United States is the wealthiest country in the world, a significant number of its residence, whether citizens or not, have experienced homelessness in their lifetime. Less than 5 years ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that 564,708 people are homeless on any given night. There is a dearth of information available that puts older adults at the forefront or at the center of homelessness epidemic. Moreover, recent HUD reports claim that homelessness has decreased, in the United States, while the National Center on Family Homelessness reported that the number of residents experiencing homelessness is steadily climbing and is expected to hit an historic high, within the next 5 years. Yet, most of the attention given to homelessness as a public health issues, tends to focus on families and children. Few studies have targeted older adults and their primary risk factors experiencing homelessness. Important to note is the fact that consistent data and accurate reporting about homeless older adults are few and far between. This chapter (1) presents a practical definition of homelessness, (2) provides a social work framework for understanding and assessing risk among homeless populations, as well as, (3) emphasizes the importance of cultural competence in health practices for addressing homelessness among older adults as a public health concern.
Part of the book: Healthcare Access