New Haven for Hope program addresses spike in older clients

Recent partnership with Opportunity Home cuts housing wait for older, disabled clients

SAN ANTONIO - – The economy’s downturn and rising housing prices have left many senior citizens homeless, and Haven for Hope is seeing a spike in older clients.

Nathan Finley, 66, lived on the streets for 15 years.

“I ended up on the streets because the economy was very hard, and now it’s gotten increasingly harder. The price on housing, and rent is sky high, and people are already out on the streets are at a serious disadvantage,” he said.

He’s watched housing prices climb and decided he’d never be able to afford his own place.

“I ended up in a tunnel or a cardboard box, and I got tired of that. And I said, ‘This isn’t me. I’m better than this,’” Finley explained.

A Haven for Hope counselor had been consistently checking in on him, and on May 17, he told him he was finally ready to go to the shelter.

Now, he wishes he’d made the move much earlier.

“They said, ‘How old are you?’ I said, 66. And they say, ‘Why didn’t you come see us sooner?’” Finley laughed.

They immediately set him up with medical insurance and social security.

“That’s what’s saving my life right now,” said 76-year-old Haven for Hope client Charles Powell.

Powell recently separated from his wife and had nowhere to go. After crashing with friends for a few months, he ended up at Haven for Hope in April.

He has had one goal: to have his own home.

“They have different programs and then they fit you into whatever program you should be in. And right now, I’m just going through a process. Takes a little time,” Powell said.

As a senior with health problems, he won’t be waiting nearly as long as others.

“We just started out a new agreement with Opportunity Home, and that’s specifically for those with a disability or 62 and older,” said Haven for Hope Housing Director Ashley Adkins.

Adkins said the new program and partnership with Opportunity Home was created just six months ago in response to the recent spike in older clients experiencing homelessness.

“They go straight into a public housing unit. So instead of waiting four years on the general waitlist, they can be here. We do the paperwork and they wait maybe a month to a unit,” Adkins explained.

She said the need for public housing has never been higher.

For people even in the general community, she said, “There’s waitlist that could be up to five years right now, if you’re even lucky enough to be on the waitlist. For section eight right now, it’s not open. So you can’t apply for it right now.”

For older seniors experiencing homelessness who turn to Haven for Hope, they use their time waiting for housing to brush up on their skills.

“Learning how to deal with everything that’s changed. Because housing, the cost of food is going up, and that’s the basic essentials that everybody needs,” said Finley, who has signed up for every finance and basic skills class available at the shelter.

Both Finley and Powell are preparing for their future.

“When you can put a key in your own house, go to sleep, and wake up in your own house, everything’s good,” Powell said, emotion welling up in his eyes.

He’s overjoyed with the fact that with the help he’s currently getting, he knows it will soon be a reality.

To Finley’s peers who are still experiencing homelessness, he said, “Act on it and come to a place like Haven for Hope because there’s really nothing out there. They’re just staying the same vicious cycle of homelessness.”

Powell said he swallowed his pride to go to the shelter but now wants to serve as an example.

“They can see me. I was kind of worried, too, but I had no choice. Come here, see what they can do for you. They can do a lot,” he said.

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.

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