High rents, difficulty finding secure employment and an inadequate age pension: these are among the reasons more older Victorians are becoming homeless.
COTA Victoria’s CEO, Tina Hogarth-Clarke, addressed these and other issues when she spoke to the Victorian Parliament’s Social and Legal Issues Committee’s inquiry into homelessness in early July.
Ms Hogarth-Clarke presented to the inquiry alongside Fiona York, the Chief Executive Officer of the Housing for the Aged Action Group.
A statistical picture reveals that:
- One in every seven people experiencing homelessness is over the age of 55.
- The number of older people experiencing homelessness has risen steadily over the past few years, with single women over 55 particularly affected.
- There are still more than 84,000 children and adults on Victoria’s public housing waiting list.
Some of the key factors driving homelessness among older people include
- housing availability
- housing accessibility
- financial security
- elder abuse.
Ms Hogarth-Clarke welcomed the Victorian Government’s $2.6 billion Homes for Victorians initiative, which will provide 6,000 new social housing homes and see upgrades to a number of existing facilities. But this would still not stop the growing shortage of public housing, Ms Hogarth-Clarke said. COTA Victoria is advocating for a long-term public housing investment strategy that reflects consumer demand.
People are more likely to acquire a disability as they age, and to meet their needs, houses need be built according to universal design guidelines. Universal design ensures that private dwellings can be accessed by the broadest range of people possible regardless of age or disability. Poor design can limit a person’s ability to remain living in their own home as they age.
The number of people aged between 55 and 64 on unemployment benefits has dramatically increased, largely because systemic ageism is locking older people out of the workforce. Older people are now the fastest-growing segment of the private rental market. Inadequate income and an aged pension that assumes home ownership are both contributing to the increase in homelessness.
Increased financial stress experienced by children can have a knock-on effect on ageing parents. ‘We know that adult children may opt to move back in with their older parents when they lose their jobs – particularly during the current COVID-19 crisis – or go through a life-altering event such as a divorce,’ Ms Hogarth-Clarke said. ‘Ageing parents will often desperately try not to allow their family member to become homeless. This can directly contribute to financial stress and homelessness for the older person.’