Low or no savings, low or no super, on the pension and evicted for rent arrears: this is the profile of one of the largest growing segments in homelessness – older single women.
Homelessness Australia points to recent research suggesting that this cohort is ‘experiencing homelessness for the first time later in life. For many of this group, a lack of financial resources and assets has meant that they are unable to sustain their housing. Reasons identified from the research included: being forced out of the workforce early, having insufficient superannuation/savings to fund the costs of living, discrimination in the housing market, the death of an income earning spouse, poor health or serious illness often resulting directly or indirectly from abuse, and separation/divorce.’
There are programs designed to respond to these issues but there is an urgent need for them to be adequately resourced and extended. For example, the Assistance with Care and Housing Sub-Programme, which targets the following groups:
Frail older people 65 years and over (or 50 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) who are on a low income and who are homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of experiencing housing stress or not having secure accommodation; and
Prematurely aged people who are 50 years or older (or 45 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), who are on a low income and who are homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of experiencing housing stress or not having secure accommodation.
In this environment, the Queensland Government is piloting a novel approach, Better Together Housing (BTH). This pilot project focuses on single women over 55 years old who currently live alone, helping participants find housemates in the Sunshine Coast.
BTH is not a housing service. Instead, they connect older women who would like to share their home with someone who is looking for shared accommodation. The aim of BTH is to address housing needs as well as social isolation.
Have you heard of other older people or organisations who are tackling retirement housing in novel ways? COTA would love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org