In the mid-1980’s, as Boston’s housing market was undergoing a boom and rents soared, the staff of Boston University Medical Center’s Home Medical Service (Currently known as Boston University's Geriatric Services) encountered a disturbing trend: Boston’s frail, elderly men and women were being displaced from their apartments. Many of them, with no place to go, ended up in area homeless shelters or on the streets.
…increasing numbers of Boston’s frail, elderly men and women were ending up in homeless shelters or on the streets.
A solution needed to be found. So in 1986, with a three-year demonstration grant from a consortium of national and local foundations, Elders Living At Home Program was established to help these vulnerable patients. With intensive case management and housing search services, these men and woman who previously had few places to turn to for assistance could not get help finding safe, affordable places to live and the supportive services to remain there.
Along with these services, Elders Living At Home implemented a temporary housing component in 1988, utilizing vacant units in Boston Housing Authority elderly/disabled developments. With an 80% success rate, this effort served as a model for collaborations between Boston Housing Authority and other homeless service providers.
In 2000, Elders Living At Home was awarded a contract by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs to establish the first-ever emergency shelter and service program for homeless elders. The result was the Elderly Residential Assessment and Placement Program (ERAPP), which provides intensive case management and assessment services in a safe residential setting. More than three-quarters of those who participate in the program move on to permanent housing.
From 2001-2003, ELAHP was a partner in a three-country comparative study on the causes and contributing factors in elder homelessness led by noted researchers from the United Kingdom. This research led to the publication of papers in a variety of scientific journals and three national conference presentations. Further publications and a book are anticipated.
For nearly a quarter of a century, this program, in collaboration with Boston Medical Center, with other social service providers and with the City of Boston, has fought to stem the tide of elder homelessness in our community. As a result of the Elders Living at Home Program more than 2,000 homeless elders have been able to find permanent housing, maintain that housing successfully and remain independent.