Homelessness grows for older women aged 55+

MEDIA RELEASE

Homelessness has grown by 31% for older women aged 55 plus

Sydney – 5 August 2019 − Dr Jane Bullen from Women’s Electoral Lobby has called on Commonwealth and State governments to respond Australia’s homelessness crisis for women, who are often invisible and amongst the poorest and most vulnerable of those experiencing homelessness, as part of National Homelessness Week (4-10th August).

“Current resourcing for people who become homelessness is inadequate and the funding under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement with states falls short in addressing the housing affordability crisis or gender responsive service requirements,” Dr Bullen said.

“The main causes of women’s homelessness are violence, women’s income inequality, their relative poverty and unaffordable rents. Women and children who have experienced family violence or relationship breakdown are the largest single group of people presenting at homelessness services. Older women aged 55 and over are the fastest growing cohort of homeless people, with numbers increasing by 31% between 2011 and 2016[1]. This trend is expected to continue unless social housing provision is expanded, given the gap in men’s and women’s lifetime wealth accumulation,” said Dr Bullen.

Dr Bullen said that while initiatives that focus on helping people sleeping rough are important, only 7% of people experiencing homelessness are identified as sleeping rough. Many women experiencing homelessness attempt to hide their homelessness and manage it themselves, by moving between the houses of family, friends and acquaintances, staying in severely overcrowded or unsafe dwellings, or sleeping in a car or outside in concealed locations. This invisibility means that they may lack basic survival resources and their homelessness may be prolonged, with adverse physical and mental health impacts. At the same time, the number of women presenting homeless to services nationally has recently overtaken the number of men, and women are two thirds of those turned away from homelessness services.

Women’s Electoral Lobby is calling for additional social and affordable housing targeted to women including women with children fleeing domestic violence, older women, single women, single mothers and women with disabilities. WEL is also calling for additional emergency accommodation including specialist domestic violence refuges to meet the needs of women.

Dr Bullen condemned the lack of affordable rental housing and the long waiting lists for social housing, currently almost 200,000 nationally. This situation and the woeful level of the Newstart allowance means that more women of all ages are likely to be tipped into homelessness because of their already precarious financial and personal circumstances.

In National Homelessness Week (4-10th August), WEL calls on all governments to cease punishing people experiencing homelessness with poorly resourced programs and start treating the problem of homelessness like a wealthy, socially just and compassionate country.

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Available for comment:

Dr Jane Bullen. Deputy Convenor WEL NSW. Mobile: 0413 806253

Homelessness Week 2019 is the 4th -10th August with the theme “Housing Ends Homelessness’’.

[1] The Effects of Violence on Housing Outcomes for Women produced by the Equality Rights Alliance - AIHW 2012 report. “While females represented 57% of homelessness service clients in major cities, they represented 81% of clients in very remote areas.”

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