Foundation grant addresses urgent needs of older New Yorkers

For older adults who have completed treatment, the lack of affordable housing is a major barrier to their ability to lead independent lives and maintain a healthy recovery.

In New York, Odyssey House is one of the only substance abuse treatment organizations to offer services specifically tailored to the needs of older people. Counselors trained in geriatric substance abuse provide treatment services that address underlying behavioral issues in an intensive program that helps older adults develop relapse prevention strategies, reunite with families, and build a supportive peer network. But key in helping them move on to independent, healthy lives in the community is affordable housing.

Almost half of the ElderCare population at Odyssey House (adults age 55 and older) were homeless when they entered treatment, stay in residential care for an average of 100 days longer than younger clients, and 25 percent fail to find independent housing, forcing them to cycle back to institutional living in community residences.

“One of the fastest growing health problems in the US”

This is where the Board of Directors of the Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation plays an essential role. Through their support, Odyssey House will be able to hire a housing specialist to help approximately 150 residents who cycle through our ElderCare program find, secure, and remain in housing.

By supporting this effort, the Samuels Foundation is helping to serve more seniors in need by helping Odyssey House transition clients out of intensive residential care and freeing up beds for seniors on our waiting list. This grant also aligns with the mission and objectives of the Foundation’s Healthy Aging Program to improve the overall quality of life of New York City’s older adult population.

Demographic crisis

While the shortage of affordable housing affects all low-income New Yorkers, the need of this population to find secure housing is urgent and becoming more acute as the number of older substance abusers in recovery increases. It is estimated that the number of older adults who will need treatment for substance abuse will increase from 1.7 million in 2000–2001 to 4.4 million in 2020.

In addition to their increase in numbers, the changing demographic and substance use pattern of older adults indicates that a wide array of psychological, social, and physiological needs will continue to grow, including demands for appropriate housing.