'Silver tsunami' leaving more seniors on Portland's streets, experts say

More seniors are on the streets

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Statistics show one out of every five people living on the streets of Multnomah County is age 55 or older.

Laura Golino de Lovato said Wednesday, thanks to the "silver tsunami," that percentage is likely to grow.

“The tsunami has, essentially, already hit,” she said. “Now, we're dealing with the aftermath.”

Golino de Lovato is executive director of the Northwest Pilot Project, a downtown Portland-based nonprofit that helps seniors get into affordable housing.

According to federal statistics cited by the agency, 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old every day, and 29 percent of those report having no retirement savings or pension.

Seventeen percent report having some, but it’s less than $10,000.

Locally, according to the Northwest Pilot Project, Multnomah County is 25,000 affordable housing units short of where it should be to meet the need for low income families and seniors.

For that reason, said Golino de Lovato, more and more seniors are ending up on the streets, a lifestyle that exacerbates already existing health problems.

“You’re living in a way that you’re exposed to the elements, if you’re living in your car, or if you’re in a shelter,” she said. “For people who have illnesses or compromised immune systems, shelters can be very dangerous.”

Heads of the Northwest Pilot Project reached out to KGW after seeing Tent City USA, an investigative special that, in part, followed the story of a then-56-year-old epileptic widow named Willow.

Complete Tent City USA coverage

Golino de Lovato said her story is becoming a more common one, but she added some solutions are in the works.

Oregonsaves, a state-run retirement savings program is rolling out over the next few months.

For those who don't make enough to save any income, Northwest Pilot Project is working with the Joint Office of Homeless Services on a local housing subsidy program.

Likely to roll out next year, the program’s goal is to provide Portland’s poor with rental assistance, up to $7,000 per year.

“We think that Portland should be a community for those who made it a community,” said Golino de Lovato.

James Srp, 66, knows how vital that is.

A few years ago, he lost his rental when the owner's bank foreclosed, and from there he lived in his car.

Thanks to the Northwest Pilot Project, he now has a small apartment. He knows too many like him who aren't as lucky.

“I think about the recession that supposedly is over but we’re still recovering from, and I think about all the people whose lives were disrupted from that. Some of those people are still on the street,” he said. “If you're forced to choose 'Do I eat, or do I keep my 401K?' What do you choose?”

© 2017 KGW-TV


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