According to data from the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, the number of homeless seniors in Hillsborough County has increased dramatically since the outbreak of the epidemic (THHI).
In Hillsborough County alone, 495 people over the age of 62 were in need of emergency shelter in the fiscal year 2016. There has been a 67% increase in the number of elderly people who are homeless in the last three years.
In 2021, a total of 4,777 people of all ages sought out programs for the homeless, as opposed to 4,233 in 2018. Adults above the age of 62 accounts for the majority of the growth.
A THHI CEO who has worked on homeless issues since 1995 noted that senior persons have the hardest difficulties finding accommodation. Several reasons have contributed to the rapid development of the elderly homeless population, she noted.
Hayes-Triplett explained to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that “they’re usually on a fixed income.” “Social security benefits typically provide them with $800-$1,000 every year. A one-bedroom rental in Hillsborough County is out of the question at this pricing point. What do you eat if you do obtain a place for $800?”
For some, Tampa Bay’s housing market is “hot,” while for others, it’s a “crisis.” It is anticipated that rents will rise even further during this time of crisis because of the heated property market.
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According to Hayes-Triplett, the number of people 62 and older who have received homeless services in the past year is not the overall number of people on the street. THE conducted a “Point In Time Census” earlier this year to assess how many people are now living on Hillsborough’s streets. The results of that survey will be made public later this month.
She believes that the number of people living on the streets has risen this year. But the rise in the number of elderly persons requesting support for homelessness in 2021 is particularly worrisome, she said.
THHI’s strategy plan involves addressing the core causes of homelessness, such as poverty, low wages, unemployment, a scarcity of affordable housing, mental illness, and substance addiction. She told CL that there is no single solution to the problem.
As part of their efforts, the group has sponsored free expungement clinics, launched a community-wide affordable supportive housing program, and raised the number of permanent housing vouchers for persons who have been homeless.
It was said by Hayes-Triplett that THHI is planning to build a number of shared living facilities. Building 50 units that would house 150 people is THHI’s long-term plan, with three now in place. Housing for the elderly and other vulnerable populations would be prioritized from the outset of the project. The BEACH house is also in the works, and it will shelter the chronically homeless, many of whom are over the age of 60.
Last year, 495 adults aged 62 or older sought shelters, safe havens and outreach projects as they experienced homelessness in Hillsborough County.
In 2018, this number was 296—that’s a 67% increase in homeless seniors over the last three years.https://t.co/ncXniwmDoY
— Justin Garcia (@JustinGarciaFL) June 1, 2022
These projects have been affected by the pandemic, but they are still in the works, she said.
The increasing number of elderly individuals living on the streets of Tampa Bay has been put into perspective by recent incidents.
During a recent Tampa City Council meeting, Arlene Washington, an old crippled Black lady, recounted the city’s high cost of living, including her current residence at the downtown Tampa’s Madison Highland Senior Apartments.
After a public outcry, the Tampa City Council has requested a tenant advocate office and additional renter safeguards. In response to the strong feelings expressed by the residents, the city council unanimously voted to strengthen protections for renters.
“We have people there who are moving out this month because they can’t afford to pay the rent anymore,” Washington added. Also, the way you treat the elderly is wrong, and it breaks my heart to know it.
It was after this discussion that the city council requested staff investigate setting up a “Tenant Advocacy Office,” which would assist tenants in dealing with landlords and lease agreements. A landlord and tenant registry, which might keep tabs on bad landlords, was also recommended by City Council. Staff was tasked with investigating the feasibility of such a registry.
The Tampa area has been plagued by bad landlords. Apartments like Silver Oaks and Holly Court are being managed like slums.
After repeatedly calling for rent stabilization, the council has turned its attention to reform and the creation of a rent relief scheme that pays landlords who raise their prices. Rent stabilization has been strongly opposed by Mayor Jane Castor, whose election PAC was heavily supported by developers.
Hillsborough Agency’s Director of Homeless and Community Services Felicia Crosby-Rucker told CL that the county is working to prevent people from becoming homeless as rents rise.
It was pointed out by Crosby-Rucker during a seminar last week on homelessness how homelessness has evolved in recent years, with the current situation putting anyone at risk.
A homeless person’s face might look like anyone, not only those with mental illnesses or addictions, according to one expert at a discussion where Tampa officials stereotyped the population as a whole.
It’s “just average individuals who are doing what they can to survive,” she said to CL. “You’d be astonished.” “There has been a significant increase in the number of senior citizens living in high-priced apartments in the past few months. As a result, the topic of diversion is coming up more frequently.”
To avoid eviction, Crosby-Rucker stated that diversion entails county representatives contacting landlords on behalf of tenants to explore other solutions. They’ll check to see whether a tenant can pay a portion of the rent and make up the difference at a later date if necessary.
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It’s up to Crosby-Rucker and the two parties to see if there’s an agreement that can be reached.
There is a pressing need for more community partners to assist provide more affordable homes, according to Crosby-Rucker and Hayes-Triplett. In order to bring in more partners with property, they urge them to participate.
Community groups, faith-based organizations, and small landlords who own duplexes and other homes like that are all being approached by Crosby-Rucker. “Additionally, those that participate are rewarded for their efforts. But the most important thing is that you become a part of the solution when you become involved.”