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Loneliness the forgotten side of poverty: Vinnies


Recent reports that the number of rough sleepers in Adelaide’s CBD has risen by almost 60 per cent – from 143 to 227 people in just 12 months – came as no surprise to frontline welfare agencies such as the St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies).

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The figures were collated from Connections Week, an initiative of the Zero Project Adelaide which seeks to identify rough sleepers in the inner city, in order to coordinate and prioritise housing and support.

It’s an alarming statistic, said Vinnies CEO David Wark, and one that needs a multi-pronged approach to combat, but he added that it’s just one of many issues being addressed by Vinnies.

“Another emerging issue is the incidence of older people living in poverty, particularly older women who have raised children and may not have enjoyed secure paid employment,” he said.

“They are left with minimal or no superannuation in later years, and therefore reduced capacity to support themselves.”

Mr Wark (pictured) said he was hearing of an increasing number of older people asking for help to put food on the table, and assistance to help make ends meet.

“But when we meet these immediate needs and actually spend the time to understand their circumstances, we are finding there is a less obvious need that comes from living in poverty, and that is social isolation,” he said.

“Loneliness and social isolation is an added burden to living in poverty.

“This can be due to a number of factors, including being unable to afford to go out and participate in community life.

“In addition, as the number of older women renting in the private rental market increases, they have fewer choices about where they live, and this can also contribute to them feeling less connected to their community.

“From an affordability point of view they may have to live some distance from family and friends, and this distance can be amplified by a lack of mobility due to no longer driving, or a health issue that limits their ability to get out and about.”

Mr Wark said not only were there lasting emotional consequences such as the pain of isolation, the fear of not being able to afford basic necessities, and the unrelenting sadness of feeling forgotten or unwanted, there was also increased instances of mental illness, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

“And that’s where Vinnies comes in, and why the Winter Appeal is so important,” he said.

“Funds raised will support the work of the dedicated Vinnies volunteers who assist people who turn to them for help in times of desperate need; whether that be financially, emotionally or both.”

• Donations to the Winter Appeal can be made at


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