Rising Homelessness Among Arizona’s Elderly: A Growing Concern



The data for Maricopa County in 2023 shows that more than 2,000 homeless people are aged 55 or older, marking the first time age ranges were reported in the annual count. Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) is in the process of opening a permanent shelter for seniors, but the organization says demand outpaces supply, with the top reasons for senior homelessness including medical issues, memory problems, and insufficient income. Shelters also face struggles such as a lack of affordable housing and rising rent prices.

Homelessness among Older Adults in Maricopa County

Maricopa County data reveals an alarming increase in homelessness among the senior population, with over 2,000 individuals aged 55 and older reported homeless in 2023. Among them is Greg Baxter, a 58-year-old Phoenix resident, who became homeless following the sale of his trailer to pay for his late mother’s medical bills.

Baxter now resides on the streets in downtown Phoenix, spending his nights in an overflow shelter at the Key Campus, formerly known as the Human Services Campus. He described his situation as ‘miserable’, highlighting the harsh reality faced by many older adults experiencing homelessness.

The rise in older adults facing homelessness has been attributed to a variety of factors including medical issues, memory problems, and insufficient income. “The lack of affordable housing,” Martha Myers from the Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) added. “The rent prices are just astronomical.”

CASS is making strides to address this issue by opening a permanent shelter for seniors. In the interim, a temporary 60-bed senior shelter is operating out of a leased hotel, but the demand significantly exceeds the supply. Myers warned, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better” due to the specific Baby Boomer generation.

Service providers are also facing challenges, with CASS’s permanent senior shelter not set to open until later in the year. The lease for the hotel acting as a temporary shelter is due to expire at the end of March, meaning current residents will need to find alternative accommodations.

Those working in homeless services are calling for more creative solutions and prevention measures. Baxter’s advice to others is to “stay in the house, save your money and stay.” His goal is to secure a job, save enough for a new trailer, and leave homelessness behind. If you or someone you know is facing homelessness, resources are available through Arizona’s 211 hotline.

Interested parties can donate to CASS to support those in need and help combat senior homelessness in Maricopa County.

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