Addressing Older Adult Homelessness:
Mecklenburg County’s Hotel Conversion Housing Project

Mary Ann Priester

Senior Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County Community Support Services

Karen Pelletier

Division Director, Housing Innovation & Stabilization Services
Mecklenburg County Community Support Services

In May 2020, at the onset of COVID-19, Mecklenburg County opened a hotel to provide a safe, non-congregate setting for older adults who were experiencing homelessness and had  health conditions that made them high risk for morbidity if they contracted COVID-19.  In 2022, Mecklenburg County invested $13.6 million dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funding to buy and renovate a 90-unit hotel to provide permanent, affordable, supportive housing to serve this vulnerable population. Phase One of the renovations were recently completed and on June 29th, the 29 remaining residents of the hotel were relocated to fully furnished apartments in the hotel conversion project.

This blog provides an overview of the state and nature of older adult homelessness and what’s being done locally to address the housing needs of this growing population.



According to May 2023 data , there are 770 single older adults (55+ years) experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. This group accounts for 36% of the overall single adult homeless population. Single older adult homelessness has increased 3% in the past two years.

These data are consistent with national reports and research which show that the median age of the homeless population in the United States is rising. Research by Kushel and colleagues suggests that older adults make up approximately 50% of the single adult homeless population. The rise in older adult homelessness is expected to continue, with research by Culhane and colleagues suggesting that the population of homeless adults aged 55 and older is projected to double or triple between 2017 and 2030 in large urban cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City.

Given the current and expected increases, there is a growing need to develop and implement effective models of care to address the unique needs of this vulnerable population.

Contributing Factors

Older homeless adults age 55 and older face unique challenges and vulnerabilities compared to their younger counterparts. Research on older adults experiencing homelessness suggests that contributing factors vary by age of homeless onset. For older adults who experienced late onset homelessness, factors that contribute to their homelessness include but are not limited to:

Economic challenges: Many older adults have limited income, insufficient savings or assets, or a lack of safety net resources to manage a health or financial crisis. Incomes of the lowest-income older adults have not increased with rising rents, putting older adults at risk of homelessness due to their inability to afford housing costs. While Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are vital resources for older adults, the amounts are insufficient to meet their housing costs and other essential expenses like food, transportation, and healthcare.

Housing access: Rents have risen rapidly leading to an increase in the number of cost-burdened older adult renters. In addition, rising housing costs can make it difficult for older adults on fixed incomes to find affordable housing. This is particularly exacerbated in areas with high housing demand. Finally, there is a lack of accessible and available units for older adults with mobility challenges or disabilities further limiting the number of safe, affordable units to meet the needs of this population.

Social isolation: Lack of family or social support networks can increase an individual’s vulnerability to homelessness. A 2004 study found that half of individuals 50 or older were living alone right before they became homeless .

Housing Discrimination: Black, African American, and African persons experience homelessness at rates significantly higher than Whites. Older homeless adults experience similar disproportionately. These disparities are a direct result of the ongoing effects structural racism. Discrimination in housing markets, redlining, and predatory lending practices have contributed to the racial wealth gap and housing disparities. This discrimination still exists today and can be compounded by age-related housing discrimination which ultimately impacts an individual’s ability to obtain affordable housing.


Homeless older adults have unique and complex needs, including early onset of aging-related conditions. They experience premature aging and premature mortality. A significant percentage of homeless older adults struggle with basic activities of daily living, falls, cognitive impairment, hearing and visual impairments, and chronic disease management. Additionally, homeless older adults have a high prevalence of chronic medical conditions with many experiencing multiple chronic illnesses.

Homeless older adults also have a higher prevalence of substance use disorders and mental health conditions compared to the general older adult population. Around 75% of homeless older adults reported having one or more psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder.



Addressing older adult homelessness requires a comprehensive care model that meet their specific needs and challenges effectively. This includes providing affordable housing options, access to healthcare, social support networks, and specialized services tailored to the needs of older adults.

In 2022, Mecklenburg County designated $13.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to renovate an 90-unit hotel into housing for residents 55 and older who are medically vulnerable and experiencing homelessness. This expansion of affordable and supportive housing aligns with the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioner’s housing insecurity priority and recommendations from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Strategy. Compared to new construction endeavors, acquiring and converting hotels and motels often provides an easier and more cost-effective approach to boost the availability of affordable and supportive housing.

The Mecklenburg County hotel conversion project is a collaboration between Mecklenburg County Community Support Services, Mecklenburg County Asset and Facility Management, and Roof Above. Roof Above will act as the property manager and offer supportive services to the tenants. They will provide geriatrics-focused system navigation and care and supportive services will be specifically focused on the needs of older adults and facilitating their ability to age in place safely.


Phase Two of renovation and construction of the hotel conversion project is underway. Renovations are expected to be completed by late 2024. Once complete this effort will provide nearly 90 additional units of affordable housing for older adults experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. It will also provide more opportunities for residents to age in place.  In addition to increasing affordable housing, building upon the local success of permanent supportive housing, and enhancing income supports, targeted prevention efforts are needed to decrease the inflow of older adults into homelessness. These approaches together can prevent older adults from losing their stable housing and provide safe, affordable, and permanent housing options for those who are already homeless.


In May 2020, Mecklenburg County opened a hotel to provide a safe, non-congregate setting for older adults who were experiencing homelessness and had complicated health conditions that made them high risk for morbidity if they contracted COVID-19.  The majority of guests of this hotel had been living outside or were leaving the hospital and were at risk discharging to the streets.  This hotel provided a safe haven.  Due to the needs of the people being served at this hotel and the local lack of affordable housing, positive exits from this hotel would not have been possible without this permanent housing solution.

For more information about the hotel conversion project and local strategy to address older adult homelessness, please reach out to Karen Pelletier at