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San Diego Supervisors approve pilot program to help seniors at risk of homelessness

The San Diego County Administration Building is shown on Jan. 12, 2021.
Zoë Meyers
The San Diego County Administration Building is shown on Jan. 12, 2021.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a pilot program last week intended to help seniors at risk of homelessness with rental assistance. The pilot program was introduced by county supervisors Joel Anderson and Terra Lawson-Remer, and was unanimously approved by the board.

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The program could help low-income older adults at immediate risk of homelessness cover rental costs with subsidies of $300. The program was proposed based on findings from the Serving Seniors' 'Senior Homelessness: A Needs Assessment' report released last September. The report found that a quarter of San Diego’s homeless adults is over the age of 55 and more than 40% are experiencing homelessness for the first time.

Paul Downey, president and CEO of Serving Seniors joined KPBS Midday Edition to discuss the inspiration for the pilot program.

He said most older adults are homeless in San Diego because of economic reasons like the loss of a job, illness or living on a fixed income.

"Older adults are particularly at risk because they're quite often not able to go back to work and earn additional resources to live," Downey said.

He said preventing senior homelessness with the assistance of the county program will be less costly than providing care for people who are already homeless.

People over the age of 55 whose income is less than 50% of the area median income and who are spending 60% or more of their income on rent will be eligible to apply for a rental subsidy once the program is up and running.

The Board of Supervisors asked staff to return with a plan for the program in 90 days which is around the beginning of May.