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A Portrait of Late Life Homelessness in Calgary, Alberta

  • Katrina Milaney (a1), Hasham Kamran (a2) and Nicole Williams (a3)

Abstract

This article aims to evaluate and assess the health issues of Calgarians over the age of 50 who are experiencing chronic homelessness, determine their unmet service needs, and assess whether there are predictors of chronic homelessness (such as childhood trauma) that could be addressed with changes to policy or service delivery. Three hundred participants were recruited from emergency shelters, as well as a from a small group of rough sleepers in Calgary, Canada in the winter of 2016. Excel and SPSS were used for analysis beginning with descriptive statistics for the samples of respondents who are 50 and older (n = 142) and under the age of 50 (n = 158). More than half of participants had been homeless continually for more than 10 years. Older adults reported complex health issues and significant barriers to accessing health care including finances, wait lists, and asking for help but not receiving it. Older adults reported lower rates of childhood trauma than their younger counterparts, yet the average was two and half times that of the general population. Recognition of the intersecting and cumulative effects of long-term homelessness and age could inform changes to policy to reduce siloes around public systems. Given that older adults are at higher risk for an early death, they should be prioritized for housing programs. Culturally appropriate and trauma-informed interventions are necessary to address the diverse and complex needs of this vulnerable group.

Le présent article vise à évaluer les problèmes de santé des Calgariens de plus de 50 ans en situation d’itinérance chronique, à identifier les manques en matière de services pour cette population et à cerner les prédicteurs de l’itinérance chronique, tels que les traumatismes durant l’enfance, qui pourraient être atténués par des modifications touchant les politiques ou la prestation de services. Des personnes en situation d’itinérance, dont trois cents provenaient de refuges d’urgence, ont été recrutées à Calgary (Canada) à hiver 2016. Les logiciels Excel et SPSS ont été utilisés pour l’analyse des statistiques descriptives des participants qui ont été séparés en deux groupes, soit les répondants de 50 ans et plus (n = 142) et ceux de moins de 50 ans (n = 158). Plus de la moitié des participants étaient en situation d’itinérance continue depuis plus de dix ans. Les personnes plus âgées ont fait état de problèmes de santé complexes et d’obstacles importants pour l’accès aux soins de santé, associés notamment à leurs problèmes financiers, aux listes d’attente et au fait de ne pas recevoir d’aide malgré leurs demandes. Les répondants plus âgés ont rapporté des taux de traumatismes durant l’enfance inférieurs à ceux des répondants plus jeunes, bien que la moyenne de ces taux soit 2,5 fois supérieure à celle de la population générale. La reconnaissance des effets croisés et cumulatifs de l’itinérance de long terme et de l’âge pourrait guider la modification des politiques visant à réduire les cloisonnements entre les services publics. Étant donné que les personnes âgées en situation d’itinérance sont plus à risque de mourir prématurément, elles devraient être priorisées par les programmes d’aide au logement. Des interventions adaptées au contexte culturel et tenant compte des traumatismes seraient nécessaires pour répondre aux besoins à la fois variés et complexes de ce groupe vulnérable.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à : / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Katrina Milaney, Ph.D. University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine Community Health Sciences Calgary, Alberta Canada (Katrina.milaney@ucalgary.ca)

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