Recession leaving more over 50 homeless

Danetta Betancourt is an unwilling part of a recent trend: seniors made homeless for the first time in their lives by bad luck, bad timing and the recession.

Although people 50 and older are traditionally a small part of the homeless population, their numbers have grown as the economy has stagnated.

For six months, Betancourt, 52, and her husband, Arturo, 43, lived in a small silver Hyundai with two windows broken out of it. Rain sometimes leaked in, despite their attempts to tape heavy plastic sheeting into place.

They found a subsidized apartment on the edge of Oak Park last week, ending almost a year of homelessness that began after the Betancourts lost their jobs.

"It can happen to anybody," Betancourt said. "You never think it will be you."

A snapshot of the Sacramento area's graying homeless population shows a group that came to the streets as a result of midlife job loss and health problems, not chronic addiction and mental health issues.

Loaves & Fishes reports upticks in the number of formerly middle-class men and women past the age of 50 who are now on the streets, said advocacy director Joan Burke.

Similarly, Women's Empowerment, which helps homeless women learn job skills and find housing, saw its population past age 50 soar to 29 percent in 2008 before dropping to 16 percent in 2009, the year Betancourt graduated from the program.

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