Hundreds of older people will end up living on the streets of London, unless specialist services are put in place to care for them. That is the verdict of a new report: Old and Cold: London's older homeless people - from St Mungo's housing association. The study paints a bleak picture of limited services and a growing number of elderly people sleeping out of doors. Since April 2001 the association's street outreach teams contacted 626 people over the age of 50. Nearly 200 of them were over 60. While there are 15 specialist hostels for people under 25 - who only make up 13% of the rough sleeper population, St Mungo's said there is just one for older people, who account for at least 18% of street homeless. St Mungo's runs that specialist hostel. Most residents there say they prefer to live with people their own age. The reasons older people become homeless include death of a partner, or close relative, mental illness and the loss of a job. Disturbingly, St Mungo's has helped older homeless people who have been evicted from their home by councils or housing associations because of rent arrears. One St Mungo's client, was evicted at the age of 70. He had lived with his father for 20 years and when his father died he did not know how to pay the bills. He said the bailiffs gave him 15 minutes to leave. St Mungo's is calling for extra investment in services for older homeless people, including more funding for low-cost housing that offers support, such as a warden and home visitor. Charles Fraser, chief executive of St Mungo's said: "It is a sad indictment on our attitude to older people that they can be regarded as 'beyond their sell-by date' and left to fend for themselves. Robina Rafferty, chair of the Catholic Housing Aid Society, welcomed the report. She said: "We are concerned for all vulnerable people. A major part of our submission to the government recently on homelessness strategy was not just the need for housing but for support of all kinds for people who are homeless. This is particularly important now as the government is shortly introducing the 'extension of priority need' category to homelessness legislation. It is not enough just give someone a roof. We've seen cases where people were given a flat, but no furniture or advice on benefits. A few months later they were evicted and back on the streets. Its harder then to be re-housed if you've had a record of falling behind with rent."
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