Single Room Occupants

A common living situation for poorer middle-aged and older adults in large cities is single-room occupancy (SRO) in residential hotels. These accommodations vary in quality depending on location, newness, and the clientele to which they cater. The most deteriorated type, the skid-row hotels located in the central city, house low-income, mostly male occupants. At the next level are the relatively clean, working-class hotels that provide housekeeping services and have primarily male occupants. At the highest level are the more comfortable and more expensive middle-class hotels, which have equal numbers of male and female occupants and provide some activities (Erickson & Ekert, 1977).

A typical single-room occupant of a skid-row hotel is a retiree, a welfare client, or an ex-mental patient. During the day, he or she may wander the streets, gathering with others of similar circumstances in large outdoor parks, bus terminals, or other sheltered public places, and hustling to provide some income. Most skid-row residents are fiercely independent, possess a high capacity for survival, and are proud of their hustling abilities. The facilities provided by the hotels to these occupants are barely adequate. Their meals tend to be sporadic, perhaps cooked on a makeshift hot plate fashioned from an electric iron wedged between two Bibles.

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