The number of elderly women becoming homeless is rapidly increasing, it is now the fastest growing form of homelessness in our society.
Homelessness in women over the age of 55 is on the rise, stress and abuse from separation with a spouse or divorce, and domestic violence are all playing a large role in the cause of their homelessness.
Rochelle Courteney from Share the Dignity spoke about how these woman are often left couch surfing or living out of their own cars.
“You won’t find them on the streets like men. They are scared and they are in hiding” Ms Courtney said.
The loss of a spouse who is either the sole or higher income earner has a serious impact on their quality of life. When this happens they may be in a situation where they are lacking sufficient funds to cover the costs of living.
There are currently no services available to specifically help women over the age of 55 and suffering from homelessness due to domestic violence or other reasons.
“Right now we have to turn our backs on these women, becuase women with children always become the priority in these situations,” Ms Courtney said.
“I want to bring in a program called adopt a granny. Bring back a community feel and have somewhere for these women to go”.
Two million dollars a year from the government goes to women with child who are escaping domestic violence, though for these women who are over the age of 55 and trying to escape domestic violence they are not offered the same services.
“I was at a homeless event and this elderly homeless women was wearing a child’s nappy becuase she couldn’t afford incontinence pads. She was getting kicked out of the crisis accommodation she was staying at with her dog, because animals aren’t allowed,” Ms Courtney said.
“I spoke with another woman who said she was living out of a dumpster.”
Homelessness in older people has a massive effect on both their physical and emotional health. These people who are homeless and over the age of 55 are 64% more likely more like to be dead within 5 years.
Not only are the physical issues concerned for these people are degrading bone and muscle quality, but also a higher chance of heart attacks, strokes and organ failure increases the older they are. Also associated to their homelessness is mental health issues, conditions such as dementia can set in much quicker.
The poor financial situation homeless women find themselves in, is occurring because of a lack resource’s, assets and stability within their life up to the point of homelessness.
They are unable to sustain their housing situation, unable to live on government pension, and aren’t able to access their own pension or superannuation and have insufficient funds to contribute to helping themselves out of the situation.
Another contributing factor leading to older women becoming homeless is not being granted access into the aged care system.
When a person enters a Commonwealth subsidised residential care facility there are many charges and fees they must pay to be granted access.
People who are lacking the funds or who have little financial security such as property, are turned away because they can’t pay the government fees.
If someone is a homeowner these facilities look at this as a potential for investment as they could sell off their home to pay for the deposit to enter the government system (accommodation entry fund).
This option however, is not available to people who are renting or in social housing or are experiencing homelessness.
“There is a large issue of homelessness in Brisbane. Entire families are affected by it. Poverty stricken and homeless people might have a roof over their head, but most, barely,” Ms Courtney said.
“1800 respect, every woman need’s to know this number. They need to know what to do when they find themselves in this situation.”
Share the Dignity are working with the community delivering sanitary items to people who can’t afford them.
They are also working with the Lady Musgrave organisation, who buys crisis accommodation for the homeless, they are currently working on buying more accommodation.
The Queensland government are working to improve the homeless issue in Queensland. Having opened two large homeless refuges in the state. One in Brisbane and the other in Townsville.