Los Angeles, the city of Angels, is home to the Sunset Strip, the Lakers, and Hollywood. It’s also home to an aging homeless and low-income population.
In a series on aging by KCRW called “Going Gray in LA,” it’s estimated that the County’s senior population will double- to make up almost a fifth of the total population- by 2031. But, there’s more to these baby boomers than meets the eye.
KCRW’s Ruxandra Guidi and Bear Guerra suggest that roughly 200,000 older adults living in LA currently fall under the Federal Poverty Level and that “Latino, African-American, and Asian older adults who live alone or with only a spouse had the highest rates of being among the ‘hidden poor.’” Number-wise, how do we know what hidden poverty means?
The Federal Poverty Level for 2018 rests at a collective household income of $25,100 for a family of 4, as per the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s just $12,550 for two earners, or $6,275 of earnings divided amongst all four income contributors. With California rent rising to some of the highest rates in the country, it’s no surprise then that many who fall below the poverty line may put health-related needs on the backburner.
These burdens are those that the Tzu Chi Dental Mobile Unit aims to relieve.
Knowing how critical dental health is, not only as the pathway to the rest of the body but, for the overall quality of life, the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation’s “Dentists on Wheels” program’s volunteer dentists, technicians, and staff aim to offer free dental services to vulnerable populations. Those living in Lincoln Heights are among them.
David Fields from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul acknowledges the hardship of those in the neighborhood.
In 2017 alone, the “Dentists on Wheels” program served 3,209 patients- at no cost- in the state of California. And, the services provided can be similar to those one may find at a private dental practice.
Our patients, too, feel the impact of the quality care our volunteers do their best to provide.
Though quality care may be our most obvious provision, our dental mobile unit hopes to offer residents something more, too: hope.
Ronald, an elder Los Angeles resident, struggle with disability. He currently takes 36 medications and has a friend, Javier Álvarez, help him out with caring for him at his modest home.
After finding out about Tzu Chi’s dental services through Church, both came and received extensive dental services, free of charge in Lincoln Heights. Chris Sariego from St. Vincent de Paul of LA, a Catholic non-profit organization, stresses the importance of the work we all do, together, to give a helping hand to individuals just like Javier and Ronald.
With LA’s elder population- and rates of poverty- on the rise, we know the need for services like ours will grow. And we need your help to do it. Ronald knows this, too.
Help us do more to lift the veil of hidden poverty, and give relief in the process.