South Bay Homeless Survey Finds Some Seniors Spend Decades On Streets

SAN JOSE (KCBS) – One of the senior citizens approached during a recent survey of the homeless in San Jose and Palo Alto had been living on the streets for the past 58 years.

The oldest man enumerated by volunteers who fanned out across the two cities in the predawn hours this week was 85 years old, said Jennifer Loving with Destination Home, the Santa Clara County initiative to end homelessness.

“One of the most painful things to learn was how many folks are seniors that are living outside. We had over 70 folks that are over the age of 60,” Loving said.

Nearly 300 of the 700 surveyed had health conditions that put them at risk of dying prematurely, she said. Statistics show life homeless men and women can see their life expectancy reduced by up to 30 years.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said the data gathered by the 350 volunteers would prove invaluable when the city applied for state and federal funding to provide homeless housing.

“We know that once we get them into housing we can stabilize their lives and deal with the problems that cause them to be homeless,” Reed said.

Reed said the city’s goal to find accommodations for 1,000 of its most vulnerable homeless was dealt a setback when Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated the city’s troubled redevelopment agency.

The last Santa Clara County homeless census found more than 7,000 people living on the streets on any given night. About a third of those are what the county considers chronically homeless.

Loving said the homeless in southern Santa Clara County would be counted in July.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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