New report calls for early intervention and preventative approach to end homelessness for older people in NSW
A new report by the Ageing on the Edge NSW Forum is advocating for the NSW Government to adopt the Home at Last program running in Victoria, which provides advice, support and advocacy for older people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) coordinates the NSW Ageing on the Edge Forum; a coalition of over 75 organisations, individual advocates and people with lived experience, working together to address housing and homelessness related issues of older people.
Titled ‘Home at Last: Solutions to End Homelessness of Older People in NSW’, the report recommends a comprehensive approach based the tried and tested model in Victoria which has been operating since 2012.
Providing safe and sustainable housing options that suit older peoples’ needs through a holistic program comparable to the Home at Last service model, will support them in planning for their housing future in NSW before they reach crisis point,” said HAAG Executive Officer, Fiona York.
Funded by the Victorian Government and Assistance with Housing and Care program of Federal Government, the Home at Last service offers free, confidential advice and support to older people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, or are wanting to plan for their housing future. The service has successfully assisted over 1,000 older people into permanent and secure housing since 2012.
“The success of Home at Last is a result of early intervention, close consultation with the community and people with lived experience of homelessness. It’s a proven method that works and reduces the associated mental and physical impacts,” said Ms York.
“An assessment of the service model by accounting firm Ernst & Young found a benefit cost ratio of 2.3, which means that every dollar spent generates at least $2.30 in societal value. Ultimately, it delivers long-term benefits for the Australian economy and society,” said Ms York.
The report highlights how amid rising job insecurity caused by the pandemic, domestic violence and the housing affordability crisis, the number of older people, particularly women seeking support from homelessness services has increased.
Between 2013/14 and 2016/17, NSW saw an 88% growth in the number of women aged of 55 and over, accessing homelessness services.
Among this marginalised group is Su; a 67-year-old woman who first experienced homelessness at the age of 18 when she had to flee an abusive relationship with a young son and then again later on in her life. Su is currently still waiting for a permanent housing option to become available to her.
“After working in the care sector for almost 50 years on a low income, I couldn’t accumulate enough super to survive in ever-increasing rental market and manage other expenses. I was ready to live in my car when thankfully, I found transitional accommodation,” said Su.
Also hoping to find a permanent home is Rochelle - an Aboriginal author and artist who currently lives in transitional housing. She experienced significant trauma growing up, which left her homeless twice. Rochelle has since shared her story with the United Nations, authored a book, held numerous art exhibitions and advocates to reduce stigma and raise awareness around experiences of homelessness.