Charity calls for donations to spare older Australians from homelessness
National Christian charity Mission Australia is calling for more social and affordable homes and donations to help support and prevent the growing numbers of older Australians being pushed into homelessness.
Mission Australia’s CEO James Toomey cautions: “Australia’s ageing population is expected to double between 2010 and 2050. There is a severe shortage of social and affordable housing, growing levels of housing stress and of course ongoing pandemic challenges. This has created a perfect storm which is causing more people over the age of 55 to be forced into homelessness.”
According to the most recent 2016 ABS data, there are 116,000 people experiencing homelessness across the nation and one in six people experiencing homelessness are over 55 years old . This is anticipated to rise with the 2021 Census statistics. Meanwhile, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there has been an increase of people aged over 55 experiencing homelessness of 21 per cent from the year 2011 to 2016, with women over the age of 55 being one of the fastest growing groups of people reaching out for assistance from specialist homelessness services.
As a charity focussed on ending homelessness in Australia and ensuring communities in need can thrive, Toomey says action must be taken now to reduce the numbers of older people being forced into homelessness.
“The challenges of the pandemic have pushed many people, including older people, into poverty and homelessness. For many, it’s the first time in their lives they’ve been without a safe place to call home. These challenges and increased isolation have caused great financial and emotional pressure for many of our older Australians, Toomey said.
“These older people who are homeless are mostly unseen. The majority aren’t sleeping rough in plain sight on the footpath. They’re more likely to be facing hidden homelessness. They’re living in unsafe or insecure living conditions like a car, temporary accommodation, a garage or they could be couch surfing, he said.
Toomey also emphasised the combination of a number of factors including a severe shortage of social housing and affordable rentals, abysmally low rate of JobSeeker and other income support payments and a lack of secure, ongoing employment options is leading to an increase in housing insecurity and homelessness, including for our older Australians.
“Older women in particular can be at major risk of later-in-life homelessness, due to factors such as low retirement savings and superannuation and the high costs of housing. Alongside the pressures of the pandemic, these can leave older women more vulnerable to life shocks such as sudden illness, job loss, domestic violence, or when they are widowed,” he said.
Toomey said the challenges over the past year have reinforced the need for ageing Australians to have stable accommodation and access to adequate supports so they can look after their mental and physical health.
“Appropriate housing that is affordable is a major part of the solution. This would allow people to age safely in place, ensuring that they have secure housing that meets their needs. That’s why Mission Australia calls for government and private investment to provide more housing that is affordable, accessible and suitable to their needs and allows people to live and age in their communities where they feel safe, connected and supported,” he said.
Toomey said people can help older Australians find a safe home this winter and support the vital work of Mission Australia’s frontline staff by donating to the charity’s winter appeal.
“All donations provide a much needed helping hand. Every dollar counts, and helps Mission Australia to support vulnerable older Australians. This includes early intervention to prevent homelessness later in life, as well as case management with wraparound support to break the cycle of homelessness, specialised support for older people with mental health concerns and support to help ensure people have a safe home,” he said.