January 7, 2013

Baby boomers with no place to call home

Shelters are seeing a surge in older men with age-related illnesses, a trend that could have implications for how we shape public policy.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Charles Jones, 55, struggles to sling his bags up onto his shoulder while walking on Alder Street Friday morning. Jones suffers from bulging discs in his back, and says that being homeless – and having to carry his belongings – exacerbates his injury.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Additional Photos Below

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“It doesn’t bode well for those kinds of projects,” he says.

Still, the community needs to establish alternatives to emergency shelters for chronically ill homeless, says Doug Gardner, director of the city’s Health and Human Services Department.

Those alternatives could include assisted-living facilities, group homes, respite housing for homeless people who are discharged from hospitals, and permanent housing with staff support.

In addition, homeless people who are discharged from hospitals need to be processed though a centralized intake center so they can be monitored and provided with the appropriate housing and services, he says.

Gardner says Medicaid funds may become available for some assisted-living programs, and other funding options will become available when the federal Affordable Care Act is fully implemented and everyone, including the homeless, have health insurance.

Gardner plans to begin discussions about the issue with the region’s hospitals, shelter providers, and public safety agencies. Much of the discussion will occur in February and March, and when the City Council’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee takes up the recommendation of the Homeless Prevention Task Force. Among its recommendations: Create a centralized intake center, respite housing and alternatives to shelters.

The current system is fragmented, inefficient and costly, Gardner says, and it fails to deliver needed care.

“It’s an issue we need to formulate a response to,” he says.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at

tbell@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Here is a look at how Charles Jones, 55, spent part of his time last week: Above, he walks to the Preble Street Resource Center on Friday after spending the night at the Oxford Street Shelter. ...

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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... At the Portland Public Library, he fills out applications for housing. ...

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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... The Belfast native at the Oxford Street shelter on Wednesday.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Charles Jones visits the Portland Housing Authority Friday morning to fill out forms for assistance. Experts say no community has yet figured out a working strategy for dealing with the demographic wave represented by baby-boomer generation men like Jones.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Charles Jones, 55, zips up his bags at the corner of Chestnut Street and Cumberland Avenue Friday morning on his way to the Portland Public Library.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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The 55-year-old homeless man checks for traffic before crossing a street on his way to the Portland Housing Authority.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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