Single people & housing stress
Older women are often the forgotten face of homelessness. Stereotypes dominate the average view of what a homeless person looks like, but at a time when the number of older women couch-surfing has doubled in just four years, times are changing. In Australia in 2016, 1618 women over the age of 50 who presented at homelessness services were couch-surfing – an 83 per cent increase over four years.
Australian women aged over 50 are at greater risk of financial and housing security than older men. This has been linked to a number of compounding and systemic factors.
While the stereotypical face of poverty is a older man – a lifetime down on his luck, the fastest growing demographic of people experiencing homelessness is single women over the age of 55. While it is clear that women are victim to lifelong structural settings that have undermined their financial security – the state of the housing market is what is pushing so many women from housing stress into
Christine is a recently retired and now homeless mature age woman who has, like so many other retired professional women, little to no prospect of obtaining public or community housing, or being able to afford market price rentals. She is the convenor of the Housing Alternatives self-help action group on Facebook and the creator of the Housing Alternatives web site,
Single women aged over 60 are becoming increasingly vulnerable to housing stress and insecurity and while the factors leading to homelessness are often complex, consistent trends have been emerging with this group in our community.
The report, “Retiring into Poverty”, released by the National Older Women’s Housing and Homelessness Working Group, said systemic factors such as lower superannuation, unequal pay and forced time off to raise children were key factors of the increase. The combination of women having a lower overall income and housing affordability in major cities was a cause of great instability. Housing afforda
Single older women comprise a rapidly growing cohort facing housing insecurity and the risk of homelessness.
Only about 6 per cent of homeless people in Australia are sleeping rough; the rest are in temporary accommodation, sleeping in their cars or couchsurfing. And one of the most shocking trends from the data is the increase in homelessness among older women.
Ageing is a policy challenge for all levels of government within Australia, as it is for societies the world over. In many respects, Australia is in an enviable position with respect to ageing strategies, possessing comparatively strong health, welfare and superannuation systems, a relatively strong economy and a high standard of living.
This Plan for Change proposes a series of initiatives to help older women to be able to live in homes that are safe, secure and affordable. It has been developed by a group of non-government agencies concerned about the increase in older women’s homelessness.
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