SAN FRANCISCO REGIONAL FORUM SPOTLIGHTS URGENT NEED TO ADDRESS CRISIS IN HOMELESSNESS FOR SENIORS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
October 27, 2021
The CA Master Plan for Aging San Francisco Regional Forum: Ending Homelessness Among Seniors and People With Disabilities
Over 400 people, including policymakers, stakeholders, and service providers in aging, disability and homeless services, joined together on October 26, 2021 to address the growing crisis of unhoused older adults and people with disabilities in the San Francisco region. Organized by the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council of San Francisco, the “ENDING HOMELESSNESS AMONG SENIORS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES” forum initiated discussions about implementation of The California Master Plan for Aging (MPA) in San Francisco with an emphasis on homelessness as a top priority.
The event opened with a welcome video by San Francisco Mayor London Breed and a keynote address by Dr. Margot Kushel, Director of the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative.
Dr. Kushel provided data showing that the homeless population in San Francisco is aging with every calendar year, with those 50 and older growing from 37% in 2003 to about 50% today. She also brought attention to the troubling health outcomes of people experiencing homelessness in older middle age, noting that health conditions worsen much faster than for those in the general population. For those experiencing homelessness, said Dr. Kushel, we found that “50 is the new 75.” Dr. Kushel ended her remarks with a “call to action” for the system to be more responsive to older adults with a “housing first” model that includes collaborations between aging and homeless services to address their specific needs.
Dr. Kushel’s remarks were followed by a dynamic panel discussion moderated by Del Seymour, Founder and Board member of Code Tenderloin. Panel participants included Shireen McSpadden, Executive Director, San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing; Kelly Dearman, Executive Director, San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services; Yolanda Harris, Commissioner, San Francisco Housing Authority; and Beth Stokes, Executive Director, Episcopal Community Services of San Francisco. The panelists shared highlights of collaborative responses underway, including some that emerged from the pandemic
crisis response, and took questions from the virtual audience.
A hallmark of the event was its inclusive access with live captioning, ASL, Chinese and Spanish interpretation, and an open Q &A to ensure accessibility in a virtual Zoom setting. Access was also made possible through viewer watch parties for residents who have experienced homelessness, hosted by partnering service providers – Curry Senior Center, Episcopal Community Services, PRC, and the Felton Institute. Episcopal Community Services held a watch party with residents at the Sanctuary Shelter, and the Felton Institute watch party was held for those who lived in Shelter in Place Hotels during the COVID Pandemic. All of the watch parties fostered conversations among residents and with staff about their own experiences and challenges of finding secure housing in San Francisco and what the City should be doing to address the problem.
The event, sponsored by the Scan Foundation, the Metta Fund, the Dignity Fund Coalition, Homebridge, the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, and the San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services, was especially notable for bringing together service providers, advocates and government leaders who are not often at the same table, yet share a part in forging solutions to the crisis: homeless services, IHSS and older adult services, and disability services. The event generated the beginnings of a common message platform on the issue and raised awareness about the City and County of San Francisco’s current initiatives and potential gaps which can be addressed with increased coordination and collaboration among providers.
For more information about the event and follow-on activities, go to: https://www.sfdignityfund.org. To watch the “Ending Homelessness Among Seniors and People with Disabilities” forum, go to: https://fb.watch/8WCnt3Uuv1/.
The California Master Plan for Aging (MPA), developed with the input of many leaders and advocates in older adult and disability services in the San Francisco region and released by the Newsom Administration in January 2021, outlines five bold goals and twenty-three strategies for implementation by state and local government, communities, and private and philanthropic organizations, including a focus on ensuring housing with appropriate supports and services for
older adults and people with disabilities.