What makes your organization unique in its approach to addressing homelessness?
We exclusively serve low-income and unhoused seniors.
Poverty and homelessness are complex and interconnected. Our innovative approach looks at a senior’s full spectrum of needs across multiple areas—nutrition, housing, health, and social—and delivers services that help reverse and prevent the conditions that cause homelessness.
Also, safe and affordable housing is fundamental to health. Unless a senior has a safe place to lay their head, eating well and living a healthy lifestyle are impossible. That's why we make sure that low-income seniors have access to housing they can actually afford, including transitional housing for unhoused seniors, and permanent affordable housing with on-site meals and supportive services. Our housing services provide the stability seniors need to not just live, but thrive.
What is a misconception you think the public has about homelessness?
People believe seniors are at a lower risk of homelessness.
In truth, our elderly neighbors are the fastest-growing segment of the local homeless population. About 37% of San Diego seniors don’t have enough income to pay for housing, food, health care, and transportation. Many seniors are just one unplanned expense or emergency away from losing their housing and living on the streets.
During the most recent count, 27% of unsheltered residents were 55 and older, equating to more than 2,000 seniors. 88% of them became homeless in San Diego, and 43% were experiencing homelessness for the first time.
When was the organization founded?
We were founded in 1970 as a nutrition site providing 60 lunches a week to disadvantaged seniors. In 1998, we began addressing senior homelessness and started a Transitional Housing Program to move seniors into single-room occupancy hotels.
Shortly after, we began planning for permanent solutions. We opened our first affordable housing residence, Potiker Family Senior Residence, in 2003 and our second, Potiker City Heights Residence, in 2007. In 2010, we opened our flagship Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center, a one-stop-shop where low-income and unhoused seniors could receive meals, and a broad range of services all under one roof. Our third supportive housing residence, Schmale Family Senior Residence in Ramona, opened in 2019.
You are part of the "prevention" giv4 homelessness category. Can you explain more what work your organization does in this area?
Serving Seniors prevents homelessness by catching vulnerable seniors before a crisis and lifting them out of dire need. We do this by stabilizing seniors through transitional housing, developing affordable supportive housing, and providing vital services that keep seniors healthy, happy, and secure in their homes.
All of our services are offered at no cost and include:
- Nutritious meals, 365 days a year
- One-on-one appointments with registered nurses
- Comprehensive case management services to help seniors budget, apply for benefits, and access healthcare and other community resources
- Emergency assistance to help seniors with basic needs, such as medicine, transportation, home repairs, utilities, and rent
- Housing navigation and placement at one of our three senior affordable residences
- Enrichment activities that reduce social isolation and connect seniors to friends and support
Is your organization looking for volunteers? Are you looking for committee/board members with particular skill sets? Do you need in-kind donations of any sort?
Yes! Serving Seniors’ volunteers make our mission come to life. We welcome volunteers of all ages. Feel free to explore current volunteer opportunities and fill out an online application.
Another great way to provide relief to a senior in need is by hosting an in-kind donation drive or sending a gift from our seasonally updated Wish List. You can also contact our volunteer team at [email protected].
What else would you want people to know about your organization?
In July 2020, Serving Seniors launched our Senior Homelessness & Housing Initiative—a progressive effort to reduce senior homelessness in San Diego. Designed for immediate and long-term impact, the initiative includes a comprehensive senior homelessness needs assessment and an actionable plan to better serve San Diego’s low-income seniors.