As many of us brace ourselves for the bitter cold that winter brings, the challenges faced by aging baby boomers, particularly those experiencing homelessness, become even more pronounced. Recent reports, including a poignant piece from the Wall Street Journal, highlight a concerning trend – older adults are now the fastest-growing segment of America’s homeless population. In particular, an increasing number of baby boomers are sliding into homelessness.
The reasons are multifaceted, from economic struggles, high housing costs, and a shortage of affordable housing. We’re diving further into the issue to continue to build a dialogue around this pressing concern – one that requires a holistic approach that combines empathy, technology, and collaboration.
The Harsh Reality of Winter for the Homeless
Winter intensifies the challenges faced by homeless baby boomers, exposing them to freezing temperatures and adverse weather conditions. Where can they go when the cold becomes life-threatening? Emergency Departments (EDs) are inundated with patients dealing with COVID, flu, and other acute needs. Identifying discharge solutions for these patients often falls on overburdened social workers who may need more resources and time to identify appropriate community housing and care options. Shelters, often the go-to solution, are already at total capacity.
A Creative Solution
One innovative solution to address the winter crisis to house and care for people experiencing homelessness involves hospitals leasing beds at assisted living facilities. This strategic move alleviates the strain on EDs and provides a warm and safe environment for vulnerable individuals. At SilverStay, we actively engage with over 1500 assisted living communities, many of which can support these people. We coordinate the availability of beds and crucial details, enabling seamless transitions for those in need.
The Role of Payors: A Collective Responsibility
Determining the financial responsibility for this initiative raises the question of who should bear the cost. Some hospitals and managed care organizations, especially those with Medicaid members, are in a favorable position to act as financial supporters. A notable example is a Medicaid Managed Care Organization (MCO) investing in assisted living beds, which could prove to be more cost-effective than continually directing individuals to the Emergency Department during the winter. Ultimately, such an investment has the potential to yield improved patient outcomes and enhance overall healthcare effectiveness.
The Underlying Drivers of Homelessness
Understanding the root causes of homelessness, such as the prolonged construction timelines for affordable housing, is imperative. For example, a 49-unit affordable apartment complex in Los Angeles is taking 17 years to complete, mainly due to California’s complex regulations (WSJ). By addressing these systemic issues, we can work towards preventing homelessness and providing sustainable solutions for vulnerable populations.
Winter's chill presents a formidable challenge for homeless baby boomers, but with innovative solutions, collaboration, and technology support, we can make a meaningful impact on their health and well-being. At SilverStay, we stand committed to being at the forefront of implementing solutions – facilitating innovative, affordable care transitions for those experiencing homelessness.