Housing elderly under threat

Housing elderly under threat


article by Rebecca David in the Melbourne Leader 30 March 2015

ELDERLY Victorians face homelessness if a social program fails to get State Government funding.

The pilot Home at Last program has cash to run until June 30, but will have to start turning people away from their services on May 15 in order to help those already on their books.

Run by the Housing for the Aged Action Group, the Home at Last program is the only service tailored to help elderly Victorians facing homelessness or struggling in the private rental market.

Home at Last co-manager Jeff Fiedler said since opening in 2012, the program had been a one-stop-shop of services and helped hundreds of older people into longterm affordable housing.

Aged pensioners could find themselves paying 65 per cent of their income to rent an average one-bedroom flat in metropolitan Melbourne.

“The private rental market is fundamentally insecure for older people because it doesn’t allow for long- term leases, so if a landlord wants to sell their property a tenant can find themselves out on the street in their 80s,” Mr Fiedler said.

The program was independently audited by KPMG, with 70 per cent of the group’s clients successfully housed within three months.

Betty Donegan said she would have been out on the street without Home at Last.

The 67-year-old Kensington resident had lived on her own since being widowed in 1976, but moved in with her son and his partner after she had a stroke.

“Unfortunately that didn’t work out, so Home at Last helped me find a place in May last year,” Mrs Donegan said.

Home at Last has been receiving $1 million a year from the Government but this will not be renewed in the next financial year.

Melbourne state Greens MP Ellen Sandell urged the State Government to continue funding Home at Last.

“Homelessness and housing stress for older people is increasing faster than for any other age group. Eightyfive thousand older people in Victoria are living in insecure rental circumstances,” Ms Sandell said.

Mr Fiedler said the Housing for the Aged Action Group had arranged to meet Housing Minister Martin Foley to discuss the future of the program.

Mr Foley said elderly homelessness was not a funding priority under the Federal Government’s National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness announced last week, placing Home at Last at further risk.

“If Home at Last is forced to close, it is due to the savage cuts to housing and homelessness by Tony Abbott and the previous state government,” Mr Foley said.