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Homeless seniors a growing problem in the Valley

The Central Arizona Shelter Services, or CASS, has 350 beds for men and 120 beds for women in its Phoenix adult facility. (KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX — It’s being called the “silver tsunami” of homelessness. More and more seniors are turning to emergency shelters after losing their homes.

“The seniors are the new face of homelessness,” said Lisa Glow, CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, also known as CASS.

CASS is the largest and longest-serving homeless emergency shelter in Arizona. Its Phoenix facility has 350 beds for men and 120 beds for women.

Glow said one-third of homeless people who stay in their emergency shelter in Phoenix are 55 and older. They’re coming on wheelchairs and walkers, and many are experiencing homelessness for the first time.

 

“Nearly 70% of the elderly coming into our shelter have never been homeless before,” she said.

Glow said rent prices rising is one of the main reasons seniors are getting evicted and becoming homeless. She noted Maricopa County has the second-highest eviction rate in the country.

“Another reason seniors are becoming homeless is because they’re living paycheck to paycheck,” Glow said. “Their Social Security is not enough to get by.”

CASS helps seniors find affordable housing. The problem is there’s a two-year wait for subsidized housing in the Phoenix metro area.

That means seniors could be living in the streets or in emergency shelters, like the ones from CASS, for months or even years before they can get housing assistance.

Glow said that’s why an emergency shelter with specialized services for the elderly is needed in the Valley. It would serve as a stopgap measure until more affordable housing is made available.

She and others are planning to ask state lawmakers to approve funding for it during the next legislative session.

“We don’t know of any senior-only emergency shelters in the country, and we’ve been looking,” she said. “We want to be at the forefront of this in Arizona.”

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