A new report by Anglicare Sydney has described older Australian women as the “invisible” homeless cohort that need greater recognition and support, as they try to hide their precarious living conditions from their family, loved ones and even their employers.
The report, “More Than Shelter: A study of the impact of safe, secure, and supported housing for older women”, described older women as the “invisible” homeless cohort that need greater recognition and support.
The report calls for the NSW government to establish a new specialist homelessness service for older people and for special protections for older renters to be enshrined in law – including a mandated relocation allowance of nearly $4,000 for people over 55 who are evicted through no fault of their own.
The federal government should consider a national Social and Affordable Housing strategy sector including providing tax breaks to encourage private companies to invest funds into affordable housing developments, as this new research shows older women are at great risk of facing homelessness.
“The number of older women aged 55 years or more who are facing homelessness is difficult to ascertain as women often stay with family and friends or live in cars to avoid living “rough” on the streets,” Anglicare said in “More Than Shelter: A study of the impact of safe, secure and supported housing for older women.”
“Some have described these women as becoming invisible.”
In Anglicare’s most recent annual affordable housing survey, 86% of respondents were female and 99% were aged 50 years or over.
The 2016 Census showed the number of women aged over 55 years experiencing homelessness increased 31% to 6,866 compared with 2011, while the Australian Housing Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has projected that 440,000 households aged over 55 will need affordable housing by 2031 – a 78% increase in unmet demand since 2016.
And a study by the University of Adelaide found 405,000 women aged 45 years and over were at risk of homelessness and of these, 240,000 were aged over 55 years.
“It is very disturbing that the report found the risk of homelessness for women living alone is eight to nine times higher than that for women living in a dual person household,” Anglicare Sydney CEO Simon Miller said.
“Many women do not have the opportunity to accumulate wealth and less than 50% of women in the workforce work fulltime. As they approach retirement, many women have low levels of superannuation as a result of their working history.
“It’s been estimated that almost 35% of women aged 60-64 have no superannuation at all and on average, women have 42% less super than men.
“No society like Australia that prides itself on a fair go for everyone and looking after those who find themselves in need through little or no fault of their own should accept older women facing homelessness. For many older women, facing homelessness is a first-time experience, having led what could be considered conventional lives with career, residential stability and family life.
“We need to look after older Australians who find themselves needing a little extra support because as our report found, this can literally happen to anyone.”
Anglicare Sydney’s 2022 Rental Affordability Snapshot found that for a couple on the age pension, only 109 properties were affordable of the 14,522 properties available on the survey weekend. For a single person on the age pension, only 39 properties were affordable across the Greater Sydney and the Illawarra.
The report said 18% of older people presenting for accommodation support did so primarily because they were facing family and domestic violence.
It said research indicated that regular – even small – rises in rents, an inability to pay bills and unexpected eviction push some older women into competitive rental markets where they often experience discrimination by real estate agents, intense competition from other renters and may be forced into poor quality housing.
In the More Than Shetler report, Anglicare staff commented that for many residents, being in safe, supported and affordable housing helped to rebuild identity and self-esteem, providing an emotional connection to place and a concept of home.
Anglicare Sydney has cared for the vulnerable and housed senior Australians for over 160 years across two world wars, two pandemics, and numerous economic recessions and depressions. We are a Christian non-for-profit that has cared for vulnerable people and seniors for over 160 years.
With an annual turnover of over $300-400 million, Anglicare Sydney employs over 4,000 people and welcomes the support of 2,300 volunteers. Anglicare Sydney operates across the Anglican Diocese of Sydney – Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands, the Illawarra, Norfolk Island and the Shoalhaven – and the Anglican Diocese of Armidale.