Frontline services are calling for more social housing for older women, who now make up the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness in Queensland.
(L-R) Councillor Vicki Howard, Mission Australia Community Engagement worker Fiona Terry, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner, Mission Australia South East Queensland Area Manager Janet Maher and Faishal Mahmud, Program Manager at Roma House.
Mission Australia’s new Supporting Women Over 55 project aims to reach more women who aren’t seeking help through the usual channels.
“These women are invisible to the sector,” Mission Australia Community Engagement worker, Fiona Terry said.
“Access and eligibility are enormous barriers right now, and many women in this age group don’t know where to go to get help so they aren’t being identified through usual crisis channels or pathways to support.
“Many of them don’t advise their families what they’re going through due to the stigma around homelessness and most don’t identify themselves as homeless. Often services and programs do not have a nuanced approach to dealing with this cohort, so we’re not adequately addressing their needs.”
One in five Queenslanders experiencing homelessness are aged 55 and over, and 32,000 women over 65 are in housing stress.
Fiona says that while every woman’s circumstances is different, the housing shortage and lack of affordability has amplified the rate at which older women have become homeless.
“They might have gone through a divorce, or the death of a partner or they’ve lost their job and have little superannuation or faced other issues like domestic violence – all of these issues combined with the current housing crisis means many of these women are facing homelessness for the first time,” Fiona said.
The COVID pandemic has also exacerbated the problem.
“It ended lots of informal opportunities like house sitting, because people were returning home, and rentals have become increasingly unaffordable,” Fiona said.
“These are women who have brought up families, worked throughout their lives, cared for their own ageing parents and have been active members of the community. They need somewhere safe to live that keeps them connected so they can keep going on with their lives.
“The biggest challenge is we don’t have enough stock in social housing and we don’t have 15 years or 10 years to wait for it. We need action now.
“These women need support, and as a society, we owe it to them.
Mission Australia’s Supporting Women Over 55 project is funded through a Brisbane City Council grant. It aims to connect older women who don’t have secure housing with services that offer financial, emotional and mental health support.
If you’re experiencing housing issues and need assistance from the Supporting Women Over 55 project, please contact Mission Australia’s Fiona Terry on 0418 858 818 or [email protected]