San Francisco Homeless Population Facing Health Problems
An aging homeless population in San Francisco needs supportive housing programs with onsite health care in order to prevent increased emergency department visits, according to a study by University of California-San Francisco researchers, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The study surveyed 3,534 homeless adults at emergency shelters and soup kitchens over a 14-year period. Researchers estimate the median age of the homeless is now 50, compared with 37 at the beginning of the study. However, because of the living conditions associated with homelessness, researchers say the median age is the equivalent of about 65 among people with homes.
The study finds increasing health problems among the homeless associated with growing older. For example:
- Hypertension incidence increased to 20.6% in 2003 from 14.1% in 1996-1997;
- Diabetes incidence increased to 8.2% in 2003 from 4% in 1996-1997;
- Emphysema incidence increased to 5.7% in 2003 from 3% in 1996-1997; and
- Number of homeless reporting ED visits in the previous year increased to 51.9% in 2003 from 43.4% in 1996-1997.
According to the Chronicle, the study's findings support many social workers' belief that there was a "big bang" homeless population explosion when federal housing programs were eliminated and some mental hospitals were closed in the mid-1980s.
Trent Rhorer, director of San Francisco homeless policy and head of the city's Human Services Agency, said the city has been working to increase housing for the homeless through San Francisco's 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, created in 2004. Under the plan, 1,482 units of supportive housing have already been built and another 1,518 units will be created by 2010 (Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/4). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.