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Emergency Housing Programs For Senior Citizens

Written by: Jody Adams
Last updated: January 31, 2024

One of the biggest housing concerns faced by social service organizations and homeless shelters today is the alarming rate at which senior citizens across the US are becoming prone to homelessness. 

This segment of vulnerable individuals was growing more slowly a few years ago than it is now. The most significant factor that has contributed to the rise in the number of elderly at risk of becoming homeless shortly is the COVID-19 pandemic. With an aging baby boomer population, rising healthcare costs, and rapidly rising rents and other housing costs following the pandemic, most Americans faced an economic downturn. 

According to a 2019 report on the brewing crisis of the homeless elderly, the number of elderly Americans who are either homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless will be nearly triple the current level by the end of this decade. This forecast signifies the need to develop innovative solutions to tackle seniors' homelessness and spread awareness about this issue within the general population.

Many housing programs operate at the federal, state, and county levels. These programs provide shelter, rent assistance, help with utilities, and emergency and transitional housing for homeless Americans and those at risk of homelessness. 

Read on to learn about the various programs that assist homeless individuals, especially senior citizens, to gain access to emergency housing for seniors and support services. If you need help with your medical expenses, check out our article on different financial assistance programs to pay off your medical bills.

Emergency Housing Explained

Emergency housing is temporary housing designed to meet the basic needs of homeless individuals or families and addresses their basic health, food, clothing, and personal hygiene needs. An occupancy agreement or lease may be required for emergency housing residents. A hotel, motel, state institution, or elderly shelter can be considered emergency housing.

An elderly person becoming homeless can spiral into further economic and health hardships if they do not have access to emergency housing for seniors. A temporary emergency shelter will enable someone to remain safely housed and housed, even if the shelter is temporary. One negative aspect of homelessness that is often ignored is the decline of the physical and mental health of the homeless. 

Older Americans need emergency housing assistance for many reasons. Often they are subject to eviction due to the lucrative market standards of rent for the owners of the property, which may be out of the question for the elderly living off pension and social security benefits. 

Another reason seniors may be unable to keep up with the ever-increasing rent is their deteriorating health, due to which they might face increased healthcare expenses or be unable to work. These factors may lead to them being evicted from their rented homes or unable to keep up with their mortgage payments.

In the following sections, we shall cover various emergency housing programs for senior citizens in detail, along with their eligibility criteria and application process.

Emergency Housing for Seniors

You can find resources to assist your loved one if they're struggling to pay rent or mortgage payments and don't know where to turn. A wide variety of low-income programs and solutions are available across the country. If you are a senior looking for emergency housing assistance, you can choose an available program from one of the following.


2-1-1 is an excellent resource for seniors seeking immediate assistance and connections with United Way, which provides shelters for homeless seniors and transitional housing for those in need. Besides providing food, mental health support, or funding for health care expenses, the service can also connect seniors with other resources. 

Additionally, to get assistance from a shelter or get into another resource, 2-1-1 intakes often need to be completed.

2-1-1 Eligibility Requirements

Since 2-1-1 serves people in crises, it has no eligibility requirements. Seniors may have to meet eligibility requirements for some programs they can access through 2-1-1.

Applying for 2-1-1 Emergency Housing

Calling 2-1-1 will connect seniors to the programs and resources they need nearly anywhere in the nation. They can also reach out to United Way online if they need assistance.

The Federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program

Millions of Americans face increasing rent and the chances of eviction, although the American economy is slowly recovering from the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was an affordable housing crisis before the pandemic, which threatened the post-COVID economic recovery.

The Emergency Rental Assistance program provides emergency assistance to individuals and households that cannot pay their rent or utilities due to financial hardship. As a result, two programs were created: 

  • ERA1: As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, established on December 27, 2020, ERA1 provided funds to the tune of $25 billion.
  • ERA2: The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which came into effect on March 11, 2021, provides $21.55 billion under ERA2.

The Emergency Rental Assistance program provides funding to the states, territories, local governments, and Indian tribes (for ERA1), which use the funds to assist eligible households. The ERA funds assist people with paying their rent and utilities. 

The availability of funds, the timeframe for applying, and the specifics of each program vary by state. Some programs may also cover moving expenses, internet access, and counseling.

ERA Eligibility Requirements

As many states accept applications from landlords, you should discuss applying for ERA with your landlord if you rent. Landlords and renters can both apply for ERA programs. As a renter, you can apply for ERA on your own, or your landlord can do so. If you are eligible, check with your local program. 

At least one household member must be at risk of becoming homeless or lacking stable housing, and applicants must be household renters with a rental agreement. If you cannot complete your education and want to resume your studies, check out our guide on education grants for adults returning to school.

Housing Choice Voucher Program

This program is designed to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market to low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Housing choices are not limited as long as they meet the program's requirements. 

A public housing agency (PHA) administers housing choice vouchers locally. PHAs administer the voucher program with federal funds provided by HUD.

Housing vouchers are issued to families responsible for renting a suitable unit of their choice from an owner who agrees to accept the voucher. Participating families receive a subsidy from the PHA directly from their landlords. 

The participant families then pay the difference between the rent demanded by their landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. A family can purchase a modest home with its voucher if authorized by the PHA.

Housing Choice Voucher Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for a housing choice voucher (formerly known as the Section 8 program), seniors or families must not exceed certain income thresholds. It is usually required that recipients have incomes no higher than 50% of the area median income in the city or county in which they seek residency. 

Under the law, the PHAs must give 75% of the available vouchers to people whose incomes are under 30% of the median income in their area.

Applying for Housing Choice Vouchers

Select your state from the HUD state page for further assistance. The Public and Indian Housing (PIH) Customer Service Center can provide additional information. You can also reach them by phone at 1-800-955-2232, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST.

No costs are associated with the Housing Choice Voucher program, and applications can be submitted online, by mail, or in person, depending on the local housing authority.

Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program

The HUD administers the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program. Construction and renovation of low-income elderly housing are financed through this program's funds. Subsidies are also offered for rent. These housing units allow seniors to live independently and receive support with cooking and transportation.

Section 202 Eligibility Requirement & Application

A household with at least one member 62 years or older must earn a very low income to qualify. The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) is available on the website for seniors interested in this program. If a NOFA is available, a request for this may be submitted.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What emergency housing programs are available for senior citizens in the US?

Emergency housing programs for senior citizens in the US include emergency shelters, transitional housing, and rapid re-housing programs. These programs may be operated by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or faith-based groups to provide temporary accommodation and support services for seniors facing homelessness or housing crises.

How can senior citizens access emergency housing programs?

To access emergency housing programs, senior citizens can contact their local Area Agency on Aging (AAA), which can provide information about available resources and assistance programs in their area. They can also reach out to local homeless shelters, social service agencies, or nonprofit organizations that specialize in housing assistance for seniors.

Are there financial assistance programs to help seniors with housing emergencies?

Yes, there are financial assistance programs that may help seniors with housing emergencies, such as one-time emergency rental assistance, utility assistance, or eviction prevention services. These programs may be administered by local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or charitable foundations. Seniors can contact their local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or social service agency to inquire about available financial assistance programs in their area.

Visit the rest of the Gov-Relations to read articles about government and private financial assistance for low-income individuals and families. For single mothers looking to improve their financial and living situation, check our article on hardship grants for single mothers.

Jody Adams
Jody Adams is an accomplished editor-in-chief with a deep understanding of social care and government benefits issues. With a background in journalism and a master's degree in Public Policy, Jody has spent her career shaping the narrative around social policies and their impact on society. She has worked with renowned publications, effectively bridging the gap between complex policy analysis and public understanding. Jody's editorial expertise ensures that vital information on social care and government benefits reaches a broad audience, empowering individuals to make informed decisions.

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