Number of elderly homeless men continues to rise

By Natasha Jahanshahi

The number of elderly homeless men in Denmark has doubled during the past ten years. A more excluding and strict social- and employment policy is the main reason, experts say.

As the number of young homeless people in Denmark is declining, still more and more men above 50 lose their homes, a new report, made by the National Research and Analysis Center of Welfare (VIVE), concludes.

“It shows us that there are cracks in our welfare system, which we have to pay attention to”, says John Andersen, who is a social scientist at Roskilde University.

According to John Andersen there is one reason in particular, why more middle aged and elderly men lose their homes. The social policy and employment policy has become more excluding through the last couple of years, as the law of early retirement has been changed, he states. “People with long-term illnesses or reduced working capacity, who could previously receive early retirement, can no longer do so,” John Andersen says and explains that that can lead to homelessness.

“We know that the job centers cause people a great deal of stress, and we see that some people end up not showing up to the meetings, which results in them not getting cash benefits, and thereby unable to pay their rent,” he says.

New social strategy needs to be developed
In February 2019 VIVE counted the number homeless citizens in Denmark. The results published earlier this month show that a total of 6431 people are homeless.

And even though fewer young people are living in homelessness compared to two years ago, the number of homeless men above 50 years has continued to grow. Since 2009 that number has more than doubled from 652 to a total of 1545 today.

In order to help this group of men out of homelessness, a new social strategy needs to be developed, John Andersen believes. “In general, men are poorer at developing survival strategies than women and worse at taking care of themselves. And there are more activists and professionals, who have developed ways to help young people and women out of homelessness. We have to think differently with this group of men and rethink the municipal offerings,” says Johan Andersen.

The report, made by VIVE, also indicates that the current public actions to get people out of homelessness seem to be more helpful and effective for homeless women and young men. But they do not seem to be as effective to the middle aged and elderly men.

One of the reasons for this, the report states, is that these men often have different problems than the homeless women and young people. The middle aged and elderly men, who do not have a home, more often have a drug and alcohol problem.