Dante Acosta | State’s New Crisis: Seniors on Streets

Assemblyman Dante Acosta poses for a picture at his Santa Clarita office on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Many Californians are asking themselves, is the dream of a peaceful and secure retirement becoming a relic in California?

Restful days spent with friends and families are quickly becoming unattainable for many of our seniors. As California’s affordability crisis worsens, the number of older people relocating to shelters and sidewalks is growing quickly.

California is failing many of our seniors by allowing a system that creates the constant threat of homelessness to continue.

The cost of living in California is out of control, and policies from Sacramento are making things worse.

Take the gas tax, for example. Not only does it increase the cost of driving, but also everything gets more expensive when farmers, manufacturers and shippers pass their added costs to consumers.

Furthermore, red tape that holds up construction has created a housing crisis, with skyrocketing rents and home prices.

When you take the cost of living into account, California has the shameful distinction of the highest poverty rate in America.

Seniors have been hit especially hard by Sacramento’s failures, with nearly 40 percent living in or near poverty.

Our state has more “Meals on Wheels” delivered than anywhere else in the nation, which makes sense since 16 percent of our seniors struggle with hunger.

One of the most visible indicators of this crisis is senior homelessness – last year in Los Angeles County alone, thousands of people have been driven from their homes and onto the streets.

Among people age 62 and up, homelessness has risen 22 percent.

In the 5th largest economy in the world, this is unacceptable.

Age adds a number of complications to the already-difficult experience of being homeless. Higher rates of physical disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, as well as cognitive issues like depression or dementia compound the difficulties of older people struggling with homelessness.

Their physical and mental health needs can make it harder to protect themselves if a safety concern arises.

Unfortunately, California’s social services providers aren’t equipped to care for the elderly. As more and more older Californians lose their housing, it’s unreasonable to expect them to live in shelters without specialized care.

In the short term, the state needs to make it a priority to get vulnerable seniors the care and resources they need.

To fix the problem for good, Sacramento needs to address the underlying issues that are driving people into homelessness.

California should be affordable to people who worked hard for decades. The Legislature needs to lower costs and ensure that Californians can actually afford to live and retire here, by cutting red tape that holds up new housing, lowering taxes and protecting Proposition 13.

Doing this will ease the housing crisis, increase housing stability, and maintain the promise of a secure retirement. Solving these problems won’t be easy and without compromise, but too many people are struggling for leaders to do nothing.

California’s high housing costs are pushing far too many people, many who are now seniors, onto the streets. The state has left them without support or reliable resources.

Sacramento needs to cut down on expensive housing regulations, lower the cost of living and provide better services for the people who worked hard throughout their careers. California seniors are depending on us to solve this devastating housing crisis.

Assemblyman Dante Acosta represents the 38th Assembly District, which includes most of the Santa Clarita Valley. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.

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