How we can prevent homelessness for people over 55 in NSW

It is a great concern that people over 55 continue to fall into homelessness, as evidenced by the latest Census statistics. Across Australia,
=> the number of women over 55 years counted as homeless climbed by 6.6% to 7,325
=> the number of men over 55 years counted as homeless increased by 2.6% to 12,062.

Homelessness is traumatic and damaging to people’s lives, with severe and lasting impacts. Our older generations should be looking forward to their retirement years, not living in fear of losing their home.

The rate of homelessness for older women continues to outpace men. The number of women over 55 experiencing homelessness is likely to be much higher than reported. Most older women do not sleep rough. For safety’s sake and out of shame, they are well hidden, sleeping in their cars, on friend’s couches or house-sitting.

We know the solution to homelessness is affordable , appropriate, long term housing. However, prevention is key to stopping people from falling into homelessness in the first place.

The Mercy Foundation is a member of the steering group for the Ageing on the Edge NSW (AOTE NSW) Forum, a coalition working to address the growing numbers of older people experiencing homelessness in NSW. AOTE NSW is advocating for the establishment of a  ‘Home at Last’ service, a preventative and early intervention service, assisting older people to resolve their housing crisis before they become homeless. It is much cheaper and a better experience for all if someone’s homelessness can be prevented.

You can help by contacting your local member and ask them to establish the Home at Last service in NSW as priority, to help prevent older generations from falling into homelessness. Find your local member here.

The point of the service is to provide older people with tailored advice, either face to face or by phone, to prevent them from falling into homelessness or to quickly resolve a housing crisis.

In 2022, a Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness among people over 55 years, was completed by the Standing Committee on Social Issues. The Committee made 40 recommendations which included:

Recommendation 5
That the NSW Government consider the establishment of a funded specialist housing information and support service for older people that comprises both an early intervention and crisis response, similar to the ‘Home at Last’ model in Victoria.

 On January 30, 2023 the NSW Government responded to the recommendations from the Inquiry. The NSW Government did not support the findings of its own Inquiry. We are greatly concerned that more older people, particularly older women, will fall into homelessness, as a result of this response.

The model has been costed at $1.7M per year to run, and in 2021 EY provided a benefit cost report of the service in Victoria which found that for every dollar spent on the Home at Last service, $2.30 in societal value is generated. [i]

Research confirms that older people face a number of challenges in accessing information about housing and homelessness. Most have never had any experience with homelessness services or the welfare system and don’t identify as homeless. Older people have lower levels of digital literacy and limited access to the internet, making the digital delivery of services a barrier to obtaining assistance.

Housing is a fundamental human right. Loss of housing has mental and physical health impacts and housing insecurity generates much stress and anxiety. The importance of having a safe, secure, appropriate, affordable home cannot be overstated.

[i] Housing for the Aged Action Group, 2021, Home at Last Economic Appraisal, Ernst & Young accessible at: