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Alarming increase in women without a home


A major new report by progressive think tank, Per Capita, has found that the number of homeless women over 55 is expected to double in less than a decade.

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The report, commissioned by Australians Investing in Women, used data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which indicated that without significant new policies, more than 15,000 older women will become homeless by 2031.

The finding came as no surprise to local service providers such as Vinnies SA and the Hutt St Centre.

“Women account for one in three people seeking support at Hutt St Centre, and one in five are aged over 55,” said Chris Burns, Hutt St Centre CEO.

“Most worrying is the fact that 40 per cent of the older women we support are sleeping rough when they first visit the centre.

“In our experience, women – and particularly older women – tend to exhaust all possible options before they turn to a crisis homelessness service like Hutt St Centre. This suggests the true numbers of older women at risk of or experiencing homelessness in our community are much greater than we know.”

On a more positive note, Mr Burns said there had been some remarkable success stories of women in this age group rebuilding their lives.

“Last Christmas, we welcomed in for lunch a woman named Maryanne* who’d been sleeping rough in Adelaide for several months. She was homeless for the first time in her life, aged in her late 50s, after retiring from a successful career in healthcare and raising her three kids to adulthood.

“But a relationship breakdown due to domestic violence left Maryanne with almost nothing. She was also experiencing health complications and significant trauma following a violent encounter she’d had on the streets.

“After spending Christmas Day with us and gratefully accepting gifts for her grandchildren, we were able to stay connected with Maryanne and eventually support her to find a permanent home. She’s now safely housed, back at work, reconnected with her family, and engaged with our Ignite women’s group to ensure she has the support she needs to maintain her positive trajectory.

“Stories like Maryanne’s put a human face to the worrying trends outlined in this report. And if the projections bear out, in the coming decade, we will need to brace ourselves for more women experiencing homelessness than ever before.”

A spokesperson for Vinnies SA also noted the increased demand for services from women, many of whom were fleeing domestic violence.

“We have been aware of the significant increase for some time,” she said, adding that Vinnies’ Women’s Shelter was looking at preventative programs for women at risk as well as providing crisis accommodation.

* Not her real name.


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