Our team has just published the results of a comprehensive review of research on homelessness among older people between 1978 and 2014. In this paper we review ‘what is currently known’ in the field, including the estimated prevalence of homelessness among older people in Canada, pathways into homeless in late life, and differences that exist according to ‘race’, class, gender, ability, health status, and geography.
Members of our team conducted a systematic literature search on homelessness and aging in order to create a comprehensive list of relevant works and resources. Key terms were used in the search process, including many terms referring to older adults (such as elder, senior, “older adult”, etc.), and terms referring to issues of homelessness (such as homeless, unhoused, “shelter users”, etc.).
This report reviews the state of literature on aging and homelessness. A substantial literature spanning several decades explores homelessness and the programs designed to address this issue (Lee, Tyler, & Wright, 2010; Shlay & Rossi, 1992; Toro, 2007; Trypuc & Robinson, 2009). However, present knowledge and practices about homelessness tend to focus on youth, younger adults, and young families, with far less attention to older people (Beynon, 2009; Burns, Grenier, Lavoie, Rothwell, & Sussman, 2012; Cohen, 1999; Crane & Warnes, 2001; Gonyea, Mills-Dick, & Bachman, 2010; McDonald, Dergal, & Cleghorn, 2004). Older people who are homeless are depicted as an ‘invisible population’ (Gonyea et al., 2010), but with demographic shifts the numbers of older people experiencing homelessness can be expected to rise (Edmonston & Fong, 2011). Population aging calls for research and policy attention to aging and homelessness.