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Housing and Homelessness

A New Study Shows Older Adults Are The Fastest-Growing Population Among People Experiencing Homelessness

A woman stands inside a so-called tiny home, which includes a bed, shelves and storage cabinets. She is wearing a white tank top, blue jean shorts and sandals as she looks out her open door.
Zuri-Kinshasa Maria Terry, 46, smiles inside the Tiny Home she recently moved into after experiencing homelessness, at the Tarzana Tiny Home Village which offers temporary housing for homeless people.
(ROBYN BECK
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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Adults 55 or older are the fastest-growing demographic of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County.

A new report from the United Way of Greater Los Angeles shows this group makes up one-quarter of the county's unhoused population. However, a large portion of adults over 50 are experiencing homelessness for the first time.

But the biggest demographic that seems to be suffering from this crisis is Black people, who account for 39% of older adults experiencing homelessness, despite being only 8% of the population in L.A. County, according to the study.

The nonprofit claims the city could use available state and federal funding to end homelessness among older adults "within a matter of years."

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Shawn Pleasants, who lived on the streets of Koreatown for 10 years, says being an older member of the unhoused community comes with "the worst of stigmas."

"I'm an older adult; I'm supposed to have this figured out," Pleasants said. "I'm not supposed to be stuck in this problem. How could this have happened to me? The guilt, the shame, embarrassment — and the older you get, the more independent you're supposed to become. So, you know, finding myself in my 50s, homeless, how do you approach anyone to ask for help?"

The older adult strategy calls for creating new funding streams, educating the public through strategic campaigns, pilot programs and more.

Pleasants helped develop the plan to end homelessness among older adults in L.A. He says it's a source of "hope" for him.

The plan has been shared with candidates who are running for mayor in Los Angeles.

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