(Greg Wayland, NECN: Boston) - For many older Americans, the new year marks the beginning of a new chapter in their "Golden Years". Still others will begin the new year in a homeless shelter. Homelessness among older citizens is the special concern of one Boston-based organization.
A snowy New Year's Eve at Boston's Pine Street Inn. This is the men's shelter in a system of shelters that care for ten thousand men and women a year.
Inside it is lunch hour. And it is busy.
25-year-old Kate Waters is the outreach case worker for Hearth -- a seventeen-year-old Boston-based non-profit organization working exclusively to end elder homelessness.
"I got the news from the Section Eight lottery, so we can go over that today. Where you are on the waiting list."
Since 1991, Hearth has placed 1300 elders in housing. -- elders being defined as men and women over fifty. Through outreach workers such as kate, hearth tries to integrate housing, mental health, medical and social services in an effort to gain independence for its struggling clients such as 66-year-old James Coleman.
My hopes are to get into an apartment and get out of here
There are some success stories in the making at pine street. Al Davis is among them. Kate got him an interview with the boston housing authority for a possible apartment.
Oh, it really helped me a lot. Because, you know when I first came here, I was still in the shelter. I was living on the floors.
Hearth tries to serve a diverse population. Ramone Torriente-Rodrigues is Cuban, 63-years old and one of Kate's clients. "In everything she every day is helping for me, you know?"
Kate "It can take anywhere from six months to a year if somebody's meeting with an advocate on a weekly basis for them to get into housing."
Kate says both young and old come to homelessness from many paths. "I can't say that there's one certain path that leads to it. Certainly there are issues of mental illness for some folks. Substance abuse for some folks. Others maybe loss of income, job."
A lot of them don't have the resources to fall back on. Either they've burned bridges with family or friends or some family and friends...
Hearth expects to lose 12 percent of its federal funding...and has lost a quarter of the philanthropic funding it had anticipated.
Even before the onset of these hard times, the people at Hearth knew we were working in a tough environment. They say that here in Massachusetts, one in five people over the age of 65 lives below the poverty line.
"Yeah, I think there's just a lot more demand and there's a lot less housing."
But hearth will labor on, believing a person's golden years should not be spent on the street.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A DONATION TO HEARTH, YOU CAN VISIT THEIR WEBSITE AT www.hearth-home.org