The elderly homeless constitute a subpopulation that is growing. At any given time, approximately 2% of the nation's homeless are aged 65 and older. Increased homelessness among this group is largely the result of demographic changes (the "aging of America"), increased poverty, and declining availability of affordable housing. Elderly individuals become elderly homeless people through two distinct processes: some who have been chronically homeless age into the category of elderly, and some elderly persons lose their housing and become homeless.
Aged persons who are isolated, live alone, and lack economic stability and family or social supports are at great risk for becoming homeless. Precipitating factors may include death of a spouse or a caregiver who provided support, job loss, familial estrangement, domestic violence, and mental illness. Once housing is lost, lack of general resources, lack of social supports, and declining health make it extremely difficult for low-income elderly men and women to relocate into other adequate housing. These elderly homeless persons are in double jeopardy. Not only do they face all of the problems that homeless people face regardless of age but they also encounter the problems that elderly people face regardless of housing status.