Victims of Elder Abuse and Neglect Should Not End Up Homeless

Blog post Callie Freitag

Elderly woman tries to make sense of eviction from longtime home,” read the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 31. A day later, a Los Angeles Times headline said: “Once middle class, she hung on as long as she could. Now she and her two dogs live in a car in Carlsbad.”

It was striking to read the stories of two different women – both in their late 70s – who likely have never met and are separated by hundreds of miles. Yet both now share status in a growing California community – the aging homeless.

Emerging research shows that about half of older homeless adults become homeless later in life. Why? Destabilizing life events – a death in the family, the loss of a job, financial exploitation by a stranger or family member – can disrupt an individual’s financial stability, escalating quickly into eviction and homelessness.

Elder abuse is one such destabilizing event. In the midst of California’s housing crisis and aging boom, the state’s county adult protective service (APS) social workers have seen increasing housing instability among reports of older adults who are victims of financial exploitation, physical abuse or caregiver neglect. With California’s high rent, low fixed incomes for seniors, and the vulnerability of the APS population, older adults who experience a destabilizing life event – like abuse, neglect, or exploitation – are at high risk for losing their homes.

The crimes committed against older adults are devastating to their mental, emotional, physical and financial well-being. The crimes can destroy the stability these individuals have spent their entire lives building, including having a home they can still afford.

County APS agencies and community partners intervene and help connect victims of elder abuse and neglect to assistance such as mental health services and food assistance, however, there are limited housing stabilization resources for aging adults.

CWDA, with support from California Coalition on Aging and the California Elder Justice Coalition, is advocating for a program based on supported research and proven housing intervention models used for other populations to meet the housing stabilization needs of our elder abuse victims and aging population.

The $10 million program known as Home Safe would provide short-term rental or utility assistance, legal assistance and other services to help older adults safely stay in their homes and recover from the financial crimes committed against them as well as the physical and emotional trauma of neglect.

 

What can you do?

Write a letter in support of Home Safe to the Budget Conference Committee members. This is the single most effective way to communicate your support to the Legislature.

To do this:

  • Use this template letter. (Note: this is a “view only” Google Docs file. TO use as a template, simply copy and paste into a new Word document.)
  • Fax copies of the letter to budget conference committee members. You can find a list of members and their fax numbers here.
  • If you don’t have access to a fax machine, email a signed copy of your letter to cfreitag@cwda.org. We will make sure the Budget Conference Committee hears why you support Home Safe. 

Anything else?

You can join CWDA (@CWDA_CA) in a Twitter storm! Some sample tweets:

  • Senior abuse/neglect victims at high risk of homelessness & death. #APSHomeSafe will help rebuild lives #CAbudget http://bit.ly/2mqNmMV
  • Let’s safely keep elder abuse/neglect crime victims in homes. Avoid homelessness, lower costs 4 all #APSHomeSafe http://bit.ly/2mqNmMV
  • There’s no medicine as powerful as housing. Support #APSHomeSafe for vics of elder abuse/neglect #CABudget http://bit.ly/2mqNmMV
  • Avoid #aging homelessness, help victims of elder abuse stay safely in homes http://bit.ly/2mqNmMV #APSHomeSafe #CAbudget