Santa Maria - North County

Homeless shelters across Santa Barbara County seeing rise in older people coming for help

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Several homeless centers are seeing a rise in older people coming in for help across Santa Barbara County.

Mary Jane Zaffuto of Santa Maria is 63 years old. At her age, she said she feels lucky that the Good Samaritan has helped her find housing and a job. 

"I was panicked because I was looking for work and at my age it's not easy looking for work," Zaffuto, a client of the Good Samaritan, said.

But many homeless senior citizens who cannot work are struggling to find the care and treatment they need.

"During the last three years, we had 30 to 40-year-olds in the mission. Now, nine of the 12 are over 50 years old. This is a trend this year that we have not seen before. What we're seeing as the baby-boom generation is reaching their retirement age, we are starting to see more individuals homeless that wouldn't have been in that age group before," said Jon Bronkowski, director of the Central Coast Rescue Mission. 

Bronkowski said while the facility is currently at full capacity, they're struggling to meet the supply and demand of everyone's needs. 

So they're turning to local agencies such as the Good Samaritan for help. 

But that facility is also crowded. 

Kirsten Cahoon, director of the Good Samaritan said about ten percent of their clients are at least 55 and over, trying to survive off of Social Security.

"I've been here for almost nine years and I've seen the age group shifting to an older population. As rent goes up, Social Security doesn't come up to meet that. And they're living on $865 a month on social security. And a studio is about $1,100 a month right now," Cahoon said.

Bronkowski said as the supply and demand continues to be a struggle, the rescue mission is relying on strategic partnerships with the Good Samaritan, United Way and other organizations to help senior citizens in need.

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