Unexpected evictions are a hassle for most people, but a relocation can throw elderly tenants into an emotional funk that some never recover from, mental health and housing officials say.
"Without a doubt, an eviction takes the largest toll on senior citizens, especially those who have lived in their apartments for several years," said Barbara Zeidman, director of the Los Angeles rent stabilization program.
"The low-income housing market is extremely tight, and low-income housing construction is down. Most evicted senior citizens have to move to new neighborhoods to find affordable housing, and there they still wind up paying twice as much as they were for rent."
For many elderly people, the emotional trauma of an unexpected relocation is surpassed only by the death of a spouse, according to Dr. Morton Lieberman, director of mental health at the University of California, San Francisco.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday May 4, 1986 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Several paragraphs were erroneously omitted from a story concerning evictions published in today's South Bay suburban section. A summary of the missing information will be printed in the next South Bay section.
Relocation forces seniors out into a strange, unfamiliar--and expensive--world, he said. They must look for apartments in a market where county and housing officials' figures show that the average one-bedroom apartment rents for about $525--a little more than the typical senior citizen's income of $500. In unfamiliar surroundings, they often trust no one and become housebound and lonely, Lieberman said.
Penny Griffith, founder and president of Griffith & Associates Relocation Services, said the stress caused by an eviction could be reduced if developers gave residents four to six months notice instead of the 30 days required by law.
"Tenants are always upset that they have to move, but if they know exactly what is taking place, how much notice they are going to have and that someone is going to help them, the stress is very much reduced," said Griffith, who works for development firms to find apartments for elderly tenants who have been evicted to make way for new construction.
"A developer usually plans a new construction project years before the tenants are evacuated," Griffith said. "Most developers do not focus on the tenant. When they have got the proper permits and are ready to remove the tenants, they simply find out who the tenants are and get rid of them."
In the general housing market, elderly tenants are competing with a growing pool of low-income renters for a shrinking amount of inexpensive housing, Zeidman said. Moreover, convalescent homes and federally funded housing have one- to three-year waiting lists, further reducing the pool of available housing.
To combat the senior citizen's housing plight, a growing number of public and private organizations are providing listings of affordable apartments and encouraging senior citizens to enroll in shared housing projects where two or more elderly tenants live together.
"Relocation problems are a relatively new phenomenon," Griffith said. "No one recognized it until we saw intense development pushing so many seniors out of their apartments with nowhere to go. If we don't start to find solutions to these problems now, we're going to have a whole new class of homeless senior citizens living on the streets."