Several months ago, San Diego County asked if any seniors needed help making their rent. Officials had enough money for 222 people.
Nearly 10 times that many applied.
The surge in interest highlights a key part of the region's homelessness crisis: Many elderly residents are at risk of losing, or have already lost, the roofs over their heads.
"The No. 1 need for older adults in housing is just a few hundred dollars a month," said Melinda Forstey, chief operating officer of the nonprofit Serving Seniors. "Five hundred dollars a month would have kept the majority of the seniors from losing their housing in the first place."
The newest data on homelessness countywide offers similarly sobering numbers.
Just last month, nearly 8,500 people who were at least 55 participated in a supportive service, according to the Regional Task Force on Homelessness. Only 190 found housing.
Overall, the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time (nearly 1,500) again outpaced those who got shelter (about 730).
That reality has left many nonprofit and elected leaders looking for ways to keep older residents, many of whom are on fixed incomes, in their existing homes.
There were 2,197 applications for the county's rental assistance pilot program, according to spokesperson Tim McClain.
Applicants had to meet several benchmarks, including spending most of their budgets on housing and having overall earnings that were no more than half the Area Median Income. For a person living alone, that would mean making $48,250 or less a year.
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