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More seniors homeless on the streets

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More seniors homeless on the streets

Every morning 83-year-old Beatrice Piliwale meticulously pencils in her eyebrows, puts on mascara and adds a flower to her snow-white hair.

Piliwale has been living at the Institute for Human Services for the past year.

She became homeless after two heart failures left her temporarily disabled -- and after the realization her daughter and son could no longer care for her.

"I don't want to be a burden," she says. "We worked all our lives ... and yet we're still put in a position where we can't advance."

And it's not only about medical care, much of the problem is centered around money -- and simple things like affording to put a roof over her head.

"I just don't have enough where I can actually get an apartment."

Jill Wright, director of community relations with IHS says many seniors enter their shelter with pre-existing medical issues such as dementia, diabetes and cancer. That makes the homeless experience even more challenging.

"We're just hopeful we can find safe places for them to go after shelter where they can be taken care of as they continue to age," she says.

The percentage of homeless seniors has doubled at the shelter over the past seven years, according to the IHS.

One of them is 62-year-old writer and artist Lisa Zatlo. Before she checked-in to IHS, she spent a month at Keehi Lagoon.

For the past three months, she's worked non-stop on paperwork to get into low-income housing.

"Two thirds of the battle of anybody that's homeless is to have people help us fill out the forms ... to get section eight, to find senior housing, to be able to get social security, food," Zatlo says. 

"Right now so many of the seniors are out there. They don't want to be, but they have no choice. I feel for them. I'm sorry to say I'm one of them," Piliwale says. "It's very heartbreaking."

As the population ages and the cost of living continues to increase in Hawaii, more seniors are expected to be out on the streets.

And unless something's done about what experts see as a lack of affordable senior living facilities, more "golden years" will be tarnished.

Produced in partnership with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.



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