A frightening trend has been occurring among Calgary’s homeless over the past 20 years. They are getting older.
From 2001 (when the Calgary Drop-In Centre began compiling extensive digital records of client demographics) through today, we have watched as clients in the 26-45 year age range – who used to make up the vast majority of our population (60%+) – have steadily declined. Now largely replaced by folks between the ages of 46-65. The majority now (nearly 40%) are between the ages of 56-65.
Why? Because many of our chronically homeless clients have gotten older as they have continued to stay with us. Because when older people lose employment – particularly in labour and trades jobs – it is much more difficult to find work. Because many of our older clients suffer from mental and physical health challenges that create barriers for employment and housing. And because there are few programs in place that specifically target help to folks in their demographic.
We’ve now crossed a tipping point where the most pressing concern among our clients is not specifically their struggle with addictions and mental health, but rather the ability to simply find work, housing, and access to a virtually non-existent network of social services that cater to their unique needs.
This trend will only continue to worsen; unless government and social services come together now to establish a more cohesive system of care to address the complex needs of this forgotten demographic.
The need has never been greater. With an average life expectancy of only 50 years, many our aging clients are quickly running out of time.