SAN DIEGO — Albert Zueniga was born and raised in Southeast San Diego. For years, he struggled with the typical cycles of homelessness and drug addiction.
Now at the age of 66, Albert is four years sober and living at Father Joe’s Villages, where he credits turning his life around after he was arrested.
"Always being on guard, never trusting a person. Taking off walking and having no destination to where you're going. A real cold feeling in my heart," said Zueniga. "I was saved by the San Diego Police Department. And the word that the officer told me he said, 'Get help, you have a life out there. Just go out there and find it.'...Those words stuck with me."
Albert is a success story, as a senior he was bouncing around shelters, transitional housing and the streets before getting permanent residence at Father Joe’s.
But there are many older men and women 55-years-old and above who are experiencing homelessness on San Diego’s streets.
The 2020 Point in Time Count, the annual survey that tries to establish numbers and demographics of those experiencing homelessness, found that 27% of those living on the streets were the ages of 55 and above.
That’s roughly 1,000 people and the real number could be higher.
"It definitely feels as though that number is increasing," said Glen Hilton, who is the Community Director for PATH in San Diego. "I say it's both seniors as well as other individuals who have more medically fragile conditions. The shelters certainly are seeing a much more dramatic increase in the need for work."
While many solutions have been tried, homelessness remains one of the biggest issues of our time.
The newest Point in Time Count has yet to be released, but Hilton predicts that the number has grown. For those older adults that are living in poverty, Albert has this to say.
"Just don't give up hope, people go out there and find what you're looking for," he says "When you're out there being cold at night. You know, God bless you and hope you find a solution to your problems."
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