Giselle McDonald weighs 92 pounds. Her stomach cancer and lymphoma make it hard for her to keep her food down. And while she'd like to start chemotherapy, the San Jose, Calif., resident has been denied because of her address, Mercurynews.com reports.
That's because McDonald, 74, lives in her beat-up Ford Escort and is on a waiting list to get into housing.
"My whole life has been nothing but stress, and I'm tired,'' she told the Mercury News. "I want to have some peace and calm."
Getting to the top of the housing waiting list could take more time than she has, according to the Mercury News.
That's the situation across the country, where homeless shelters and advocates are facing tough decisions about who they can help, and when.
In Florida, legislation recently included $3 million for homeless coalitions across the state -- a last minute decision that comes as only slightly relieving, as the money is specific to paying staffers, not helping homeless the Orlando Sentinel reports.
"I can't understand why homeless families should come last," Debra Susie, executive director of Florida Impact, a nonprofit which works to reduce hunger and poverty throughout the state, told the news source.
McDonald's case also exemplifies another issue: the risk elderly homeless people face. The Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress describes the toll in this year's report:
"The most notable difference between older and younger homeless adults is the older adults’ compromised health status; one study found that they were 3.6 times as likely to have a chronic medical condition as homeless adults under 50. Another study found that 85% of homeless persons over age 50 reported at least one chronic medical condition. Homeless adults between ages 50 and 62 often have healthcare needs similar to those of people who are 10 to 20 years older."
On the East Coast, the Boston Medical Center's program Elders Living At Home addresses this plight, and has helped house more than 2,500 elderly homeless find permanent housing, MySouthEnd.com reports.
The program is recently spotlighted by the movie "Being Flynn" starring Robert DeNiro, which tells the story of a strained father-son relationship and elderly homelessness in Boston.
Eileen O'Brien, director of Elders Living at Home told NECN.com that on any given night there are 1,200 elderly homeless on the streets of Boston alone.
"It's beyond deplorable, it's unconscionable," she said. "It's sort of a dirty little secret in this country. People think there's a safety net for older people and there really isn't."
Without a safety net, Giselle McDonald relies on hope.
She told Mercurynews.com that she promises she would keep her apartment clean if she got one, and despite the hard times, McDonald has one more fight in her.
"I'm like a bulldog -- tenacious," McDonald said. "I have my teeth into life; I won't let go."
To help Giselle McDonald get housing, donations may be sent to:
P.O. Box 5128
San Jose CA 95150-5128
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated an incorrect address for sending donations.
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