Nana Posey’s face lights up as she talks about her 26 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “I love my grandkids, and they love me like nobody’s business,” she shares. “They’re all doing well, and they give me such a lift when they call.”
What they don’t know is that their Nana is homeless.
“They would help me if I asked,” she said, “but I don’t want to be a bother to them. They’re young, and they have their own growing families to care for.”
At the age of 72, Carolyn – whom everyone calls Nana – is among the increasing number of seniors who are homeless.
“We’re seeing vast new numbers of clients,” said Ted Pascoe, CEO of Senior Support Services. Last year, the downtown Denver-based nonprofit provided 2,200 seniors (ages 55 and older) with tailored support services including meals, clothing, health care, transportation, keeping or finding housing, paying utilities, and more. Pascoe largely attributes this influx of homeless seniors to the increasing aging population – the so-called Silver Tsunami – and to skyrocketing housing costs.
“Landlords used to call us to offer vacancies,” he said. “They wanted to help. But that doesn’t happen anymore; the waiting lists are long.”
The wait proved too long for Nana. Her money ran out while she was staying in a hotel looking for a place to rent in Denver. “I put everything in storage in Greeley and moved to Denver to be near my granddaughter,” she said. “But by April I was at the bottom of my hope; I had run out of money and food.”
“On Mother’s Day, of all days, I came to Senior Support Services. They helped me get food stamps, do a job search, a housing search… they have helped me with everything,” Nana said. “Everyone treated me so kindly, and at that point I really needed kindness. It kept me from dwelling on the negativity.”
Like many older adults, Nana’s circumstances are compounded by health challenges. Six years ago, she had heart surgery, followed by two strokes. She also has PTSD, she says, because of having lost four of her five children, the last one in a car accident at the age of 15.
“Sometimes it feels overwhelming,” said Nana, “but there is always hope, especially when someone reaches out and offers a hand.”
The day before sharing her story, Nana got the news she was hoping and praying for: a home. “I signed final papers yesterday and will move in next week,” she beamed. “A home for Christmas!”
When asked about her hopes for the future, Nana said after she settles in she’ll resume her volunteer work at one or more of the three shelters she stayed in. “This morning I made 180 sandwiches. Tomorrow I need to make 280 sandwiches. Giving back makes me feel better about myself. I just want to contribute.”
Learn more about Senior Support Services, and elder homelessness, and take the CLOSE TO HOME pledge to say you believe we can become a community where everyone has a safe place to call home. The simple act of raising your voice sends a powerful message to policy, business and community leaders that we – their constituents, customers and neighbors – expect them to join us in making a meaningful difference in addressing homelessness.