Elders living on low fixed incomes and in danger of losing their homes may get some help this year through a new county effort to prevent seniors from becoming homeless.
The Senior Homeless Prevention Program, a pilot program starting this month, offers individual case management services to find out why so many seniors are at risk for homelessness and to create plans to keep them housed.
About 100 eligible seniors age 60 or older will get help in the first 18 months of the program.
With the aging population now one of the fastest growing demographics in California, Sonoma County is looking at a future with thousands of elderly residents trying to get by on small fixed incomes that aren’t keeping up with rising rents, driven by brutal housing shortage that shows no sign of letting up.
Stagnant incomes and high rents “have created the worst rental-housing crisis in California since World War II,” said a county community Development Commission report to Sonoma County Board of Supervisors last month when the Board approved funding for the Senior Homeless Prevention effort.
Fourth District Supervisor James Gore called the added help for seniors facing homelessness “An excellent example of keeping our focus on what’s right. It’s great to get these kind of true real discussions about what’s going on, said Gore.
About 125,000 people age 60 and over, approximately 25 percent of the population, now call Sonoma County home but they are also facing unaffordable housing in record numbers, according to a report, “The Art of Aging,” that addresses senior issues through the year 2020.
Local rents have spiked 40 percent in the last four years and nearly 4,000 Sonoma County seniors are on waiting lists for federal HUD Section 8 rental assistance vouchers, with an average wait of four to six years, according to the report to supervisors last month.
The low-income seniors targeted by the Homeless Prevention Program are often living alone, on fixed incomes, have medical conditions requiring assistance, and may have transportation problems and impaired memories which affect their ability to follow a budget and pay bills.
One facet of the program is a contract with Forestville’s Mirabel Lodge, the elderly assisted living and residential care facility on Mirabel Rd.
“We get at least 20 calls a week from people looking for lodging,” said Mirabel Lodge owner Alain Serkissian. “Lodging is a big, big issue” for low-income seniors. “We are very honored to have been contacted to participate in this program,” said Serkissian.