The Partnership for the Homeless

Older Adult Services

Ruth Ann

It may be surprising to find out how many seniors spend their “golden years” on the verge of homelessness. Living on a fixed income as the costs of rent and health care skyrocket creates a lot of uncertainty for older adults. The death of a partner or a serious health issue is often the crisis that can put them over the edge into financial ruin and maybe even homelessness. Those who do become homeless often age faster than their peers who are housed, and are at a higher risk for memory loss, dementia, and poor health.

Our work has taught us that a sense of purpose, social connection, and financial stability are all critical to at-risk seniors. Meaningful work provides all three.

Work, Health and Well Being: The Senior Workforce Program 

Our Senior Workforce Program prepares seniors who are at risk of homelessness for full- or part-time work through work skills development. By placing them in part-time positions at non-profit and government agencies, we provide on-the-job training, career counseling, and assistance finding permanent placements.

Seniors at risk of homelessness often face a number of barriers to finding and keeping jobs. They may need to refresh or learn new skills for the modern workplace; they may have health issues that limit their options; they may be experiencing social isolation or depression that inhibits successful job-seeking.

The Senior Workforce Program addresses all of these issues through four activities: job readiness training; community service assignments; case management and referral; and permanent job placement. The program provides a mentored environment in which seniors can get back on their feet and live with greater financial security and dignity.

We gratefully acknowledge the significant support of Senior Service America, which funds this work through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) and Title V of the federal Older Americans Act.

How It Works 

Participants start the program with a one-on-one meeting where they create a plan and set goals for job training, employment, and sometimes continuing education.

Next, they participate in a variety of job-readiness workshops, including resume preparation, job search techniques, interview skills, and office etiquette. Some are also referred to specialized training programs to become a home care attendant, security guard, or commercial driver. Others continue their education at local community colleges.

Matching participants to opportunities is the next step, usually in a non-profit or government office. These placements allow them to get back into the workforce and try out their new skills in a mentoring environment, contribute to the well-being of their communities, and get paid for it.

The final step in the program is helping program graduates find full- or part-time permanent employment. We also follow up with graduates and their new employers during the first year, just to make sure everything is going smoothly.

Our start-to-finish involvement in helping seniors find work provides a level of consistency that is especially important to older adults. It also gives them a sense of empowerment, social connection, and purpose at a time when many are struggling with isolation and despair.

Healthfully Aging at Home

Despite the warning signs, debates on homelessness in New York City have largely ignored the growing population of homeless and at-risk seniors. As a result, we’ve developed a program model and are now, with the help of NYU’s Wagner School, in the midst of putting together a business plan for a pilot program designed to prevent senior homelessness, testing the project in the South Bronx.

Through an adaptation of a NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) model, our overarching goal is to promote housing stability among seniors. We will accomplish this through multidisciplinary partnerships, representing a mix of public and private entities, that provide community-based and in-home services and activities. Each component of the partnership is familiar – but the concept of them working together is not. At the core are social service and health care providers; local leaders – both formal and informal; and, most important, the community’s residents, especially its seniors. Our role is to sew these relationships into a cohesive blanket of services and support, while providing additional services to fill gaps in this fabric, to enable seniors to live thriving and healthy lives in their own homes.