The faces of homelessness we see or hear about do not usually include images or stories of elderly persons who are homeless. Homeless elders, although increasing in numbers, continue to be a forgotten population. In an attempt to bring to the forefront the very real and growing existence of elder homelessness, this paper discusses the special health care and service needs of elderly homeless people and the barriers that they encounter when trying to access services. It also presents service-delivery models from communities that are addressing the multiple health care and social service needs of this frail and vulnerable population.
In addition to the elderly who are facing homelessness for the first time or are at risk of becoming homeless, there are also chronically homeless adults who are aging on the streets and are often multiply diagnosed, i.e. suffer from a range of complex health, mental health, and substance abuse issues. Both face unique health care and service needs that require a multidisciplinary-team approach with minimal barriers in order to achieve optimum health and housing stability.