Seniors no longer protected from food hardship

It hasn’t hit the headlines yet, but news from the latest Communities Count data update is sobering:  In just 3 years, King County seniors lost their “protective” status and are now as likely as younger King County residents to run out of food without having money to buy more.  In 2010, the rate of food hardship among seniors (4%) was lower than the King County average (8%).  By 2013, this relative advantage had disappeared: 1 in 10 seniors reported running out of food, a rate that did not differ from the King County average (13%) or from other age groups.

This finding (from a telephone survey fielded by Washington’s Department of Health) receives support from anecdotal reports of increasing numbers of seniors seeking food assistance from local food banks.  And things aren’t likely to improve in the foreseeable future.  In their Senior Hunger Fact Sheet, Feeding America projects that by 2025 the number of seniors experiencing food insecurity will increase by 50%, and notes that “seniors may have unique nutritional needs and challenges that separate them from the rest of the population.” The fact sheet also stresses the health risks faced by food-insecure seniors, and reports that “elderly households are much less likely to receive help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) than non-elderly households, even when expected benefits are roughly the same.”

See Communities Count’s Food topic for additional updates on food hardship.

Homelessness emergency declared in Seattle / King County

This morning Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine proclaimed that regional homelessness has reached a “state of emergency.”  Such proclamations are usually reserved for natural disasters, but Murray explained that local deaths related to homelessness have surpassed those caused by natural disasters in 2015.  Both the county and the city plan to increase funding for homelessness services, and will work to secure support from Washington state and the federal government.  An additional $5.3 million from the sale of city property will be used to address homelessness issues.  About half of those funds will be applied to homelessness prevention efforts.

According to the Seattle Times, last January’s One Night Count reported “3,772 men, women and children without shelter in King County, including more than 2,800 in Seattle – a 21 percent increase over 2014.”  When Communities Count reported on student homelessness in the 2012-2013 school year, 6,188 students in King County public schools were homeless.  According to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, that number increased to 6,448 in 2013-2014.