Action on older women’s homelessness in NSW

08 Mar 2016

International Women’s Day saw the launch of a new report highlighting not only the increasing problem of older women experiencing homelessness, but outlining ways by which it should be addressed. The report, A Plan for Change: Homes for Older Women, was the result of a collaborative effort by nine community housing, homelessness, support and advocacy organisations.

NSW Family and Community Services Minister, Brad Hazzard, spoke at the launch and gave a commitment to ensuring that the government’s new Rent Choices program will include a special focus category targeted to older women in housing crisis.

During the event held in Sydney on Tuesday morning the CEO of Bridge Housing, John Niccolades, also announced that his organisation has committed to 9 new units of permanent affordable housing specifically for older women.

“The launch of the report and the commitments announced during the event are a good start to addressing this sadly growing issue” said Felicity Reynolds CEO of the Mercy Foundation. The Mercy Foundation co-convenes the Older Women’s Housing and Homelessness Group which published the report.

MC of the event, Anna Bligh CEO of YWCA NSW also noted that her organisation’s homelessness services had recently seen an increase in older women experiencing homelessness or in housing crisis. She said “these are women who have cared for children and other family members during their lives, they have never experienced homelessness before and they don’t have complex needs. They are just living in poverty and need access to affordable housing.”

Deb Georgiou, CEO of the Women’s Housing Company, explained the focus and intent of the report at the event. She emphasised the need for action, the need for housing and the need for policy work that considers the needs of older women living in poverty and precarious housing situations.

Members of the Older Women’s Housing and Homelessness group include representatives from the Women’s Housing Company, YWCA NSW, Mercy Foundation, Shelter, St Vincent de Paul, NOVA for Women and Children, Homelessness NSW and the Tenants Union of New South Wales.

In 2014 the Mercy Foundation commissioned a research report from Dr Maree Petersen of the University of Queensland on the issue of older women and homelessness in Australia. Dr Petersen reported at that time that “the largest proportion of older women presenting with housing crisis in Australia have led conventional lives, and rented whilst working and raising a family. Few have previously had involvement with welfare and other support systems.”

The report ‘A Plan for Change: Homes for Older Women’ can be accessed at the following link: http://www.homelessnessnsw.org.au/images/stories/documents/Older_Women_Booklet_Web_Version.pdf

Read about the launch in The Guardian here.

For comment or more information contact Felicity Reynolds, CEO of the Mercy Foundation, on 0438 771 518 or felicity.reynolds@mercyfoundation.com.au or Katherine McKernan, CEO of Homelessness NSW on 0425 288 446 or katherine@homelessnessnsw.org.au