The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Pathways to Homelessness of Older Adults Living in Extended Stay Hotels

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Wendy Myers White, BSW, MSW Student, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Terri Lewinson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Purpose:Increasing numbers of adults 50 and over are experiencing homelessness, many for the first time. Since the 1980’s, the national stock of low-cost private rental and public housing has steadily declined. Recent research suggests, in the search for affordable housing solutions, many older adults seek shelter in extended stay hotels. With the baby boomer generation continuing to age in the midst of difficult economic conditions, it is important to understand why increasing numbers of older adults are transitioning into hotel homelessness and what community based resources are needed for this growing population. The purpose of this study was to understand factors that contributed to older adults' initial transitions into hotel homelessness and the barriers preventing exiting.

Method/Analyses:Nine older adults residing in extended stay hotels were recruited from a northeast suburban county in Metro Atlanta using flyers and snowball sampling. Data was collected from 2006 to 2012. Residents were provided cameras to document images of their extended stay “home”. They were also engaged in one-hour in-depth interviews.

A grounded theory approach was used to identify themes of older adults’ pathways to extended stay hotel living. Themes emerged using open and axial coding techniques. Three categories of loss were identified to explain transitions into hotel homelessness: income loss, health loss and companion loss. Additionally, inadequate access to community resources, chronic health problems and inadequate income were identified as barriers preventing exits from hotel homelessness.

Results: Income loss, health loss and companion loss were identified as the three contributors leading to housing displacement of older adults. Fourty five percent of respondents were initially displaced due to income loss. The other five respondents moved to the extended stay hotel as a result of companion loss (22%) or health loss (33%). Inadequate access to community resources (89%), chronic health problems (33%) and inadequate income (67%)were identified as barriers to hotel exits.

Conclusion and Implications: As identified in this study, a lack of community resources designed to meet the needs of homeless older adults can make the transition from homelessness to stable housing complicated and seemingly impossible. Implications for practice include practitioners understanding of the chronic emotional stress associated with homelessness as a result of loss. Additionally, a significant number of respondents were experiencing first time homelessness which suggests a need for more research in this area. Such research might explore whether first time homeless older adults have different transition experiences than chronically homeless older adults. Future research focusing on safe and affordable housing solutions for adults 50 and over is also essential in aiding populations of people after income, health and companion loss.