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The new face of homelessness

By Rebecca Vassarotti - 9 February 2017 13

Homelessness

Meet the new face of homelessness. Female. Single. Older.

While a comfortable retirement beckons for many older people, there is a growing group of women who are facing a nightmare of poverty, homelessness and hopelessness.

The economic disadvantages facing many women are well known, but we generally consider what the impacts of this multiple disadvantage are over a lifetime. So, lets consider it. We know that women earn less than men throughout their lifetimes. We know that women have less superannuation savings.  We know that women are much more likely to have time out of the workforce due to caring responsibilities –for children and increasingly for parents. We know that feminised industries are those that are poorly paid, casualised and can have poor income security. We know that women are much less likely to own property in their own right, and are less likely to rebound to financial security following relationship breakdowns. We also know that the violence that one in three women experience in their lifetimes can often lead to financial hardship. When we consider how all these factors may come together over a lifetime, it is not at all surprising that older women are facing increasing levels of poverty, financial stress and homelessness.

We are just starting to hear more about this issue.  This week a number of ACT services reported the growing number of older women who are accessing homelessness services and facing the prospect of having nowhere safe to live. This comes at the same time as the Productivity Commission Report into ACT homelessness services was released and has revealed that that funding for the local sector continues to reduce.

We need to work hard to respond to this new group at risk of homelessness if we are serious about reversing the trend of the ACT having some of the worst rates of homelessness in Australia. We need to address the gendered issues of housing, and increase the level of social, community and affordable housing that is suitable for older women. Government certainly has a role but this is an issue that will only be solved in partnership with the private and community sector. We need to encourage innovation to deliver more suitable social and affordable housing for older women. We need more options that focus on both independent and communal living. We need to find models that can be priced in a way that is truly affordable. We need to see clever design that engages with, and embeds gender sensitive design – in the physical spaces, location in supportive communities, and accessibility to amenities and facilities. While the Government has made positive noises about a renewed commitment to affordable housing, we need to see real action to enable more people to access housing that is safe, affordable and provides a decent life.

In 2010 ground breaking research was released documenting the growing issue of older women’s homelessness. Entitled ‘It Could Be You’ it documented the reasons behind this growing phenomenon, and outlined the stories of women who are struggling with homelessness.  It highlighted that anyone could be affected.  All it takes is bad luck, bad health, a crisis, a relationship breakdown. It could be you. It could be me. Let’s work together to make sure it’s none of us.

What do you think? Do you think there is more we can do to ensure that older women do not become the new face of homelessness in the ACT?

What’s Your opinion?


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13 Responses to
The new face of homelessness
1
Masquara 6:28 pm
09 Feb 17
#

Why let government off the hook? There should be fully publicly funded housing for people who need it, and the ACT Government should remove public housing stock from the very large number of public housing tenants who could afford to rent privately (or who own properties outside the ACT).

2
Serina Huang 12:42 pm
10 Feb 17
#

I think you raise some very sad and important issues. And with domestic violence, a lot of support is means tested, which means that if a woman might not be eligible for support is she has a lot of assets on paper but not be able to access them. Many people come to Canberra to work, or look for work, without having family here – so relying on family members is also not an option. With high temperatures today and tomorrow, it is an important thing to think about. Imagine sleeping in the car when you are elderly in this weather!

3
london 2:58 pm
10 Feb 17
#

what can we expect with a government like this. They have no idea how difficult it is for poor people. But I would still like to know how people from overseas can find a home but not australians. We need to hang our heads in shame. I’m sick of hearing how many can’t afford a house in Sydney. Neither can we and never have been able to!

4
bj_ACT 4:54 pm
10 Feb 17
#

I have mentioned this here a couple of times, but I really agree that Homelessness and socio economic issues across parts of Canberra is being totally ignored by the ACT Government and the issue and the people it hurts is not properly understood by a large proportion of ACT residents. Lucky we have many people here on RiotAct who understand local issues whether they are Greens, Labor or Lib supporters.

Kambah home owners have been suffering an unprecedented level of forced home repossessions and voluntary sales because they can’t pay off Bank loans. Where do these homeowners go? They often can’t just move back in with family or muscle in on friends.

Kambah has the highest number and amongst the highest proportion of single parents and indigenous persons in Canberra. As Rebecca and Serina mention, it is these kind of people who suffer the most when they don’t have a permanent residence. (People also need to understand that Homelessness in Canberra is not usually the people who sleep on a Park bench in Civic, but people and families who no longer have a house they own or rent to live in).

I am just not seeing any level of Government support for struggling homeowners in poorer sections of Canberra. In fact I see the opposite of Government support. The ACT Government has increased rates and charges right across Canberra. The Quinlan rates model and the safer families and Emergency Services levy is hitting the people of Kambah, Wanniassa, Charnwood & Holt ‘proportionally far harder’ than it hits residents of inner suburbs.

When Analysts list Kambah as the most mortgaged stressed suburb in Australia and when Banks have the suburb on a watch list of mortgage default, you know Mr Barr has dropped the ball in housing equality for all Canberrans.

http://www.digitalfinanceanalytics.com/blog/the-top-100-postcodes-at-risk-of-mortgage-default/
http://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/nab-puts-40-postcodes-on-credit-watchlist-20150817-gj12o3.html

5
Wayne_k 11:27 pm
11 Feb 17
#

This makes my heart ache. Homelessness among mature women is indeed a growing problem.

The cost of housing in Canberra makes it inaccessible to many single person households. A relationship breakdown, job loss, moving on from domestic violence – these events can make life very difficult indeed.

The Barr government make me sick with their developer buddies and ‘coolest little capital’ white elephant projects.

6
Maya123 10:57 am
12 Feb 17
#

When I came to Canberra many years ago there were hostels to live in. Otherwise I don’t know where I would have lived. I lived for awhile in both the YWCA in Mort Street and Hotel Acton; now both hostels closed down, along with many others. Are there still any hostels for the average person?
It would be good to see the reintroduction of hostels, offering a variety of room styles, from basic single rooms with shared facilities to better rooms with ensuites, and even family rooms. They could have, as mine did, dinning rooms with meals, or shared kitchens. Maybe even small kitchenettes. Weekly cleaning and linen change to keep standards okay.

Simple accommodation, but a roof over the head and somewhere for new people (especially the young) to Canberra and those needing a roof over their head after marriage break-up, etc.

7
dungfungus 4:54 pm
12 Feb 17
#

Maya123 said :

When I came to Canberra many years ago there were hostels to live in. Otherwise I don’t know where I would have lived. I lived for awhile in both the YWCA in Mort Street and Hotel Acton; now both hostels closed down, along with many others. Are there still any hostels for the average person?
It would be good to see the reintroduction of hostels, offering a variety of room styles, from basic single rooms with shared facilities to better rooms with ensuites, and even family rooms. They could have, as mine did, dinning rooms with meals, or shared kitchens. Maybe even small kitchenettes. Weekly cleaning and linen change to keep standards okay.

Simple accommodation, but a roof over the head and somewhere for new people (especially the young) to Canberra and those needing a roof over their head after marriage break-up, etc.

Not exactly ticking all the boxes but Ainslie Village has been a refuge for a lot of homeless and troubled people over many years.

http://argylehousing.com.au/old/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Ainslie-Village-General-Info.pdf

8
Maya123 6:51 pm
12 Feb 17
#

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

When I came to Canberra many years ago there were hostels to live in. Otherwise I don’t know where I would have lived. I lived for awhile in both the YWCA in Mort Street and Hotel Acton; now both hostels closed down, along with many others. Are there still any hostels for the average person?
It would be good to see the reintroduction of hostels, offering a variety of room styles, from basic single rooms with shared facilities to better rooms with ensuites, and even family rooms. They could have, as mine did, dinning rooms with meals, or shared kitchens. Maybe even small kitchenettes. Weekly cleaning and linen change to keep standards okay.

Simple accommodation, but a roof over the head and somewhere for new people (especially the young) to Canberra and those needing a roof over their head after marriage break-up, etc.

Not exactly ticking all the boxes but Ainslie Village has been a refuge for a lot of homeless and troubled people over many years.

http://argylehousing.com.au/old/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Ainslie-Village-General-Info.pdf

The hostels I stayed in were mostly people with jobs; probably many public servants. Mostly younger people, but there some older.

9
dungfungus 8:58 pm
12 Feb 17
#

Maya123 said :

When I came to Canberra many years ago there were hostels to live in. Otherwise I don’t know where I would have lived. I lived for awhile in both the YWCA in Mort Street and Hotel Acton; now both hostels closed down, along with many others. Are there still any hostels for the average person?
It would be good to see the reintroduction of hostels, offering a variety of room styles, from basic single rooms with shared facilities to better rooms with ensuites, and even family rooms. They could have, as mine did, dinning rooms with meals, or shared kitchens. Maybe even small kitchenettes. Weekly cleaning and linen change to keep standards okay.

Simple accommodation, but a roof over the head and somewhere for new people (especially the young) to Canberra and those needing a roof over their head after marriage break-up, etc.

“those needing a roof over their head after marriage break-up….”

They are the husbands. The wife usually gets to keep the roof.

10
Innovation 10:50 am
13 Feb 17
#

Current public housing policies need enhancement:
1/ Many get to stay in oversize housing for decades longer than they need. A “Ten year rule” would allow them plenty of time to move to a smaller place in the same area even (and, incidentally would be a much better deal than the Government gave to many Fluffy owners).
2/ Rather than evicting higher income tenants – which might disadvantage those with temporary increases in income – the Government could increase rents above market rates and proportionate to the tenants’ potentially abnormal income. Tenants with higher income longer term would be likely move on to private sector rentals.
3/ If the rule still exists that prior homeowners can’t access public housing, this needs to be removed. It discriminates against those who have owned in the ACT compared to other regions or countries and it discriminates against couples who have lost homes in property settlements and others who have lost homes through financial adversity.
4/ There needs to be more – or larger – refuges for the homeless. Even the japanese style cubicles would give people a bed for the night.
5/ There needs to be better interaction and cross funding with other States. I have heard rumours of the homeless in Sydney and Melbourne being told they will get help if they come to Canberra – IN WINTER! (Perhaps they think the homeless will be more in the face of the Feds or that Canberrans are wealthy enough to pay for it).
6/ The NSW border should be moved so that Oakes Estate is part of NSW and public housing tenants should be given the option of moving elsewhere in the ACT.

I do think some policies are good though. The “salt and pepper” approach is much better than consolidated housing and requiring a ratio of public housing in new apartments is great also.

11
HenryBG 4:22 pm
13 Feb 17
#

I thought I caught a whiff of feminism, and sure enough…
https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/may/07/men-gender-divide-feminism

“But in 2011 the housing charity Crisis found that 84% of the hidden homeless were male. And the latest CHAIN figures suggest that 9 out of 10 people sleeping rough are male.

According to Mankind Initiative in UK refuges or safe houses, there are 33 spaces dedicated to male victims of domestic violence (of which 18 are for gay males only), compared to around 4,000 spaces reserved for females.”

12
HenryBG 4:25 pm
13 Feb 17
#

And from the ABS:

“There were 59,424 males and 45,813 females who were homeless on Census night in 2011. Almost three times as many males (13,246) were staying in boarding houses compared to females (4,475), while more than twice as many males (4,602) lived in improvised dwellings, tents or slept out compared to females (2,210).”

13
HiddenDragon 5:07 pm
13 Feb 17
#

Rhetoric and hand-wringing aside, ACT Labor seem to be more interested in people who think that $5 is what you pay for a drink of water with a meal which costs more than some would spend to feed themselves for a week – so this pressing social issue should be seen as a test for the ACT Greens, and what they are prepared to do with their balance of power role in the Assembly.

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