Lucky To Be Alive
The average age for a homeless person at death is between 40 -49. Elder homeless men are lucky to be alive. They are under constant threat of violence. They have high levels of morbidity & mortality. They are 5X more likely to die from COVID-19 & 9X more likely to be murdered.
Pádraic needs more than luck – he is one of over 10,000 people in Toronto who are homeless on any given night.
Before living on the street, Pádraic stayed in a downtown shelter. It was there that he was beaten and robbed. A vulnerable, elder man in his sixties, Pádraic is an easy target. Today, he feels safer living on the side of one of Toronto’s busiest roads, exposed to Mother Nature.
Like others in his situation, Pádraic is lucky to be alive. Violence is a constant threat to the health of homeless people. Anyone who is homeless and living on the street is regularly assaulted. Homeless men are about nine times more likely to be murdered than their counterparts in the general population. The number of homeless deaths in Toronto in 2020 doubled over the previous year.
Even when elder homeless men can stay under danger’s radar, they still have high levels of morbidity and mortality and often experience significant barriers to accessing health care.
People who are homeless are admitted to hospital up to five times more often than the general population and stay in hospital longer. They are also often discharged to shelters where their ability to cope is marginal at best, let alone when they need to recuperate after a stay in hospital.
During this current national and international health crisis, people who are homeless are almost 2.5 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19, ten times more likely to end up in ICU, and five times more likely to die from the virus.
For elder homeless men especially, disease severity can be remarkably high due to factors such as extreme poverty, barriers to accessing care, and the adverse health effects of homelessness itself. Older adults face accelerated aging, a prevalence of debilitating diseases and a shorter life expectancy. The physical and mental health of older adults who are homeless are more precarious.
Haven Toronto – the only drop-in centre in Canada dedicated to serving elder homeless men – reduces barriers to health care. The centre provides clients with onsite access to a full-time nurse and counsellors and part-time doctor and dental hygienist. Haven Toronto also offers housing help and serves thousands of meals monthly.
In 2020, Haven Toronto saw a 92 percent increase in the number of meals served compared to the previous year, plus a 22 percent increase in clients housed year-over-year and a 129 percent increase in mental health supports.
Pádraic is a client at Haven Toronto. To him, it is a safe, inviting space where he is treated with respect and dignity. Pádraic is not alone in his thinking and not alone at the drop-in centre. There are 16 other Patricks and Pats at Haven Toronto, and thousands of other elder homeless men in their 60s, 70s and 80s.