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Number of homeless older women increase

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 askcota@cotavic.org.au

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2 Responses to Number of homeless older women increase

  1. Jan Campbell says:

    Yes see it has been listed as a cause as have been commenting to all after working in Palliative Care that the new homeless will be women of any age who have been caring for an income partner who dies, they go from an income to the disability and carer pensions to Newstart which is insane. No or lack of English, no skills or work experience and grieving how can these women possibly compete in the current workforce

  2. Dear Jan,
    COTA Victoria agrees that many older women are disadvantaged for a range of reasons including the time they may spend in unpaid caring roles, the subsequent lack of superannuation, and the difficulties faced when losing a partner through divorce or death. We are campaigning nationally for an increase in the Newstart and Carers allowance and are involved in campaigns to increase affordable housing, especially for older women. We are also working on a number of initiatives that may assist older women to re-enter the workforce. We also provide information to help older women with saving money (such as on energy costs), including a new service to start soon which will provide free Financial Counselling assistance.
    Thanks you for your concern.

    COTA Team