FAIRFIELD — While there is help out there for Solano County’s growing population of needy and homeless seniors, there is still a lot more that needs to be done, a meeting of government agencies, senior service groups and homeless advocates agreed Tuesday.
The meeting Tuesday was what Peggy Pellon of the Area Agency on Aging called a good first step to getting the county’s different government agencies, homeless advocates and senior service providers to work together to better meet the needs of the county’s older homeless people.
“We first need to get clear about what the problem is,” Rochelle Sherlock of the Senior Coalition said of the meeting’s goal.
How much of a senior homelessness problem there is locally is hard to quantify. Those who help seniors and the homeless are seeing more homeless seniors at places such as local senior centers, libraries and homeless assistance programs.
More than 60 representatives met at the Solano County Events Center to both talk about what services are being offered and what gaps there are in meeting older homeless people’s needs.
The group agreed there are a lot of gaps in helping homeless seniors, however Sherlock and Pellon said they felt there was a huge commitment in the room to fill in those gaps.
Each Solano County community, government agency and private nonprofit service provider offers help for older homeless, but there is no comprehensive or coordinated effort, according to those who spoke up about what was offered and what was lacking.
“There is no areawide resource guide,” one participant said about one way to get homeless seniors to the services they need. “If there is one, it should be user-friendly and available not only to service providers, but to the consumers, too.”
Representatives were broken up into discussion groups who came back talking about gaps in medical, mental health, affordable housing, nutrition, transportation and legal services. They further said that the past decade of cuts in funding at state, regional and local levels eliminated or cut back many of the programs that had helped needy and homeless seniors.
One person said more senior advocates are needed to work with needy and homeless seniors, to search out and get them into contact with the services they need. For example, when it comes to transportation, not every community offers transportation programs to help get homeless seniors to the resources they need, and information about those that do does not always get to the seniors who need the services.
The group’s next step will be taken in mid-January when it meets again to start coming up with solutions to fill in the gaps. Pellon said she wants the group to meet again as early as possible so participants don’t lose momentum in solving the problem.
“It is a good beginning for us,” she said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.