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Growing number of homeless seniors worries Phoenix shelter

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

PHOENIX — Alarm bells are going off at a homeless shelter in Phoenix that has seen a rise in the number of seniors looking for help.

From early July 2016 to late June 2017, the Central Arizona Shelter Services saw a 3 percent increase in the number of people 55 and older staying at their emergency shelter located near 12th Avenue and Madison Street in Phoenix.

“I think we need to start paying attention to what’s going on with the aging population,” said Lisa Glow, chief executive officer of CASS.

During that same time frame, nearly 5,000 adults stayed at the emergency shelter. Of those, 15 percent were between the ages of 55 and 61 and another 9 percent were 62 or older.

This past August, 77 people over the age of 62 stayed at the shelter.

Glow pointed to a number of reasons why she thought more seniors were becoming homeless, including abuse and families stealing money.

“We need to think differently about what’s happening with the aging population and the economic realities facing so many of them,” she said.

She said CASS recently had an 89-year-old woman come to the shelter with a walker after losing her apartment. The woman was penniless because her son was taking her pension checks.

She stayed at the shelter and was connected with a public fiduciary who helped her get her pension checks back. A case manager also helped her find an apartment.

Glow said there was another man, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran, who was found sleeping behind a dumpster and was suffering from dementia. His ex-wife had access to his bank account and was taking his pension, leaving him without any money.

He was given a place to stay and was connected with a case manager who worked with him to open a new bank account that his ex-wife could not access. He eventually was able to get his own apartment and began receiving his pension checks again.

Glow said other challenges seniors are facing that are causing them to become homeless include limited or fixed incomes, high cost of medical care, a severe shortage of affordable housing or rental properties for seniors and maintaining employment.

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