The Homeless Research Institute recommended as part of its study that policymakers and leaders:
-Increase the supply of subsidized, affordable housing for seniors.
-Create sufficient permanent supportive housing to end chronic homelessness.
-Conduct research to better understand the specific needs of elderly people who are homeless.
"We're millions of units short of low-cost housing," said Roman, with the national alliance. "Not attending to it is not very smart because especially with older people, they're going to get hospitalized, they're going to get put in nursing homes, and those are very expensive things to happen. It's much cheaper to keep them in regular housing."
Roman also emphasized that people who are homeless age much faster. So a 50-year-old person without a home will have far more medical problems than a 50-year-old person who does have a place to call home.
The oldest person at Inter-Faith's winter shelter was 83, Swank said.
She recalled a military veteran who didn't have any living relatives.
"We sort of adopted him like a grandpa," she said. "He had terminal lung cancer. We tore my office out of here and put a hospital bed in there. We've done extraordinary things. It'd be real easy to just say 'no,' but no can do."
He stayed at the shelter until his pain became unbearable. He wanted to die at the shelter, Swank said, where he had some semblance of family.
"But we couldn't administer pain meds," Swank said. "We put him in an ambulance to the hospital."
Dale Chilen recently landed in Inter-Faith's winter shelter after a visit to the Robert J. Dole Veterans Administration Medical Center's emergency room. A cab delivered the 78-year-old to the shelter on a Saturday night.
Swank just happened to see him arrive.
"He was so frail, in a wheelchair," Swank said. "I paid the cab driver to get him to Safe Haven. He was too vulnerable anywhere else. We're not a one-size-fits-all shelter, although sometimes I'd like to be."
Chilen said he was born and raised in Kansas but most recently had been living in Reno, Nev.
He arrived in Salina at the beginning of the year, he said, "walked about 20 feet and fell and broke my hip."
He said he went to a hospital in Salina and then to a senior center. He eventually came to Wichita.
Chilen stayed at Safe Haven, an Inter-Faith shelter for severely and persistently mentally ill or physically disabled people who are chronically homeless, for about a month.
The shelter "has been real good to me," he said.
On Feb. 6, he started moving into a low-income apartment for seniors with the help of Inter-Faith Ministries and the Veterans Administration.
The VA Center said it could not talk about specific patients because of privacy rules.
"We're going to review the process to ensure we're providing the best care for our veterans," said Tyler Kilian, supervisor of ancillary services there.
Chilen, a Korean War veteran, said he has been homeless "off and on" for 20 years.
"I hate to admit it," he said from his wheelchair, proudly looking at a brochure about his new apartment complex.