In Australia, older women at higher risk of homelessness

Older women at higher risk of homelessness


Australia has battled an epidemic of homelessness with the fastest growing cohort being older women. 

Sydney-based Christian not-for-profit charity Anglicare released figures on private rental accommodation showing that individuals on JobSeeker were only able to afford three of 74,000 listings — with the caveat that they must be happy to share. 

Individuals on Youth Allowance were completely ineligible for any of the 74,000 listings and only a total of 236, or one in every 313, were suitable for a person on the Disability Support Pension.

South Australian academics Dr Debbie Faulkner and Dr Laurence Lester believe roughly 240,000 women across Australia aged 55 or older risk homelessness. 

“These households rely on the private rental market and are at considerable risk of housing affordability stress and hence homelessness,” the pair reported.

They are currently showing more concern for older people who have limited wealth and savings yet lack access to social housing. It used to be the case that the older you were, the more likely you were of being a home owner. Today, that is not the case. 

In 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) collected data which revealed that back then, 116,000 people were homeless. One in six were 55 or older. 

The situation is likely to worsen due to Australia’s ageing population, which is expected to double within the next thirty years. In Queensland, 47,000 people remain on the waiting list for social housing. In Victoria, a program of ‘rapid response’ projects will offer 240 new homes for those in need — which will be worth $80 million.

James Toomey, Mission Australia’s CEO, calls it “a perfect storm”.

“There is a severe shortage of social and affordable housing, growing levels of housing stress and of course ongoing pandemic challenges,” he told Yahoo News. 

A number of other factors can increase the likeliness of homeless, including sudden illness, death of a spouse, domestic violence and the added stress of the COVID-pandemic.

Roughly 28 per cent of women aged 55-64 in private rental accommodation are likely to be at risk. For part-time or non-full time employees this figure rises to 34 percent. For parents who are parenting without a co-partner, the number jumps to 65 per cent. 

ABS figures show that the number of Australian women living alone is expected to increased by 27-58 per cent by 2041. Toomey told Yahoo News that despite this, older homeless people remain largely unseen.

“The majority aren’t sleeping rough in plain sight on the footpath. They’re more likely facing hidden homelessness,” he said. “They’re living in unsafe or insecure conditions like a car, temporary accommodation, a garage or they could be couch surfing.

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