The hidden homeless

June 6, 2021 BY

In the Barwon South West region 65 per cent of the homelessness population are women.

OLDER women are emerging as the hidden figures of homelessness as more people throughout the region are becoming increasingly displaced.

In the Barwon South West, 65 per cent of the homeless population are women however, according to the ABS Census, only seven per cent of homeless people throughout Australia are rough sleepers, leaving the extent of the crisis hidden.

Victorian-based community housing organisation, Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI), reported nearly 7,000 Australian women over 55 were presenting as homeless with almost 6,000 more facing insecure housing.

While the number one reason for women accessing homelessness services was a result of domestic violence, the ‘Older Women’s Risk of Homelessness: Background Paper’ last year reported women over 55 were at risk after taking on the primary carer role.

The paper reported these women to have modest savings, superannuation on average 40 per cent less than a males, and owning less assets.

Bellarine resident Mandy, 78, said she had to return to full-time work as a result of the rising cost of living paired with a health concern that left her struggling to make ends meet.

Mandy raised a family, owned property and was enjoying semi-retirement when she fell on tough times.

Then aged 60, Mandy began renting and “keeping her head above water” but was recently forced into a short-term lease paying 30 per cent more, which she has described as “living on a precipice.”

WPI chief executive officer Jeanette Large said she is actively pursuing avenues to address the issues across Greater Geelong, the Surf Coast and the Bellarine.

With land prices at “a premium” across Barwon South West region Ms Large said delivering alternative affordable housing models was critical.

“We house 230 women and children across Metropolitan Melbourne; however this hidden need goes beyond the city,” she said.

“It is important older women are also being housed across regional Victoria.”

Following reports that the Greater Geelong region could not house more than half of the families in need, Geelong mayor Stephanie Asher said meeting these demands was fundamental to having an inclusive and sustainable region.

“Having a stable roof over your head is a basic human right and yet there are community members who are homeless or experiencing housing stress in Greater Geelong,” Cr Asher said.

The city has confirmed its next step forward to facilitate 12,000 new affordable housing properties in Greater Geelong over the next 20 years.

Last month, the council voted to establish a charitable Geelong Affordable Housing Trust that will hold assets and funding from the city and the private sector, with $230,000 earmarked in the draft budget.

The trust will ensure the city’s ongoing investment and enable the housing program to access charity tax concessions, grants and housing subsidies, with a registered housing association to be appointed the trustee that will deliver affordable housing in the region.

“We need long-term financial commitments from all levels of government to ensure our most vulnerable residents have a safe and secure space to call home, which will allow them to thrive in our community,” Cr Asher said.

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