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Seniors hit hard by affordable housing crisis in SWFL

Naples homeless shelter has more seniors than ever
Posted at 7:18 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 19:18:14-05

NAPLES, Fla. — As Collier County explores more affordable housing options, social service organizations say area seniors have been hit hard by the housing crisis.

St. Matthew’s House homeless shelter in Naples says that in the past few years it’s seen a 400-percent increase in the number of residents over the age of 60.

St. Matthew’s officials say this is largely because rents keep going up, and seniors are on fixed incomes. Now, more and more seniors are struggling to find help with housing.

“(Seniors) don’t know a lot of the processes to connect these organizations,’ said Brittany Hargrove, director of housing at St. Matthew’s. “Often times they’re just kind of left in dark not sure what the next step is. So we receive phone calls every day from these individuals not sure where they’re going to go if they can’t make rent next month.”

This week Collier County released a report showing that, in the past year, rent increased 34 percent at apartment complexes and 71 percent among private rentals.

The sharp increases have forced many seniors out of their homes and into St. Matthew’s House homeless shelter.

Hargrove said about 25 percent of St. Matthew’s residents are 55 and older. That’s up from 5 percent five years ago.

St. Matthew’s goal is to help its residents find jobs so they can get back on their own. However, that becomes complicated with seniors.

“It is much harder for somebody been on fixed income to re-enter the work place,” said Michael Nojunas, intake manager at St. Matthew’s. “A lot of the available jobs require some sort of physical labor or some sort of skills seniors may not possess such as computer knowledge of technical skills.”

The Naples Senior Center is a nonprofit that provides services to people 60 and older. Jaclyn Faffer, the center’s CEO, said they’ve been overwhelmed with calls from seniors who can no longer afford rent.

“It is heartbreaking,” Faffer said. “These were seniors who were the greatest Americans. They were at least middle class. They never saw themselves in a position where they would have to ask a social service agency for help.”

Collier County has 11 affordable housing developments in the works, but none focus solely on seniors.