More Older Australians Homeless - Report
2 October 2012 at 10:41 am
A new report has found one-fifth of homeless Australians are over 55. Photo: syn.org.au
One-fifth of homeless Australians are aged 55 and over and many more are living in precarious housing circumstances, new research has found.
The report, Homelessness and older Australians: Scoping the issues is the first of two reports on the issue compiled by researchers from The University of Queensland, commissioned as part of the National Homelessness Research Agenda 2009-13.
The report found that there is evidence that many older people find it extremely difficult to access the services they require when faced with homelessness or the risk of homelessness.
It says this is in part a consequence of the complexities of the service systems related to homelessness which include specialist homelessness services, the social housing system, the social security system, the community and residential aged care system and the health system.
The report says what is clear is that an effective response to older person’s homelessness will require service integration and collaboration amongst all of these sectors.
Releasing the study on International Day of Older Persons, the Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor said: “We also know that Australia’s population is ageing and the number of people aged 50 and over is predicted to more than double from 2010 to 2050.”
“This tells us that later life homelessness is likely to be a growing issue requiring sustained attention and sustainable strategies.
“Part of the problem is a lack of affordable housing for senior Australians, and that is why we are investing more than $20 billion in social and affordable housing measures, ensuring that a proportion of these homes are specifically earmarked for older Australians,” he said.
“Further research will be undertaken under this study that will shed a light to specific issues affecting homeless older Australians and will explore potential policy and program responses to these issues.
The CEO of Australian Council of Social Service, Dr Cassandra Goldie, says ACOSS has consistently argued that a long-term commitment to the growth of affordable housing stock is needed to meet the high level of housing need in Australia.
“There is a need to establish an Affordable Housing Growth Fund in order to expand the stock of affordable housing, with a long term funding strategy attached to it. The National Rental Affordability Scheme, that directly encourages investment in new affordable flats and houses, should also be expanded," Dr Goldie said.
“There has been a concerted effort by government and academia to create investment models that would address this shortage, for instance through superannuation funds investing in affordable housing products such as socially responsible investment schemes.
"This is an area that super funds, which have been struggling to find Australian investment options, should be looking at both to support the Australian workforce and to provide a reliable income stream to their customers.
“We need a sustained effort to improve the housing affordability crisis that’s leading to worsening poverty in our country and placing enormous strain on community services. As a wealthy nation, Australia has a responsibility to ensure all its citizens have the opportunity to fulfil the basic need of having roofs over their heads that are affordable and liveable.”
Meanwhile, the Head of Social Policy and Advocacy at Mission Australia, Martin Thomas, said that historically the sector has been ill-equipped to provide the specialised services that the elderly homeless require.
"Many older homeless people remain ‘hidden’ because they believe – often correctly – that existing homeless services don’t address their complex needs," Thomas said.
"The problem is getting worse, particularly among older people becoming homeless for the first time, because of the decline in availability of public housing for seniors and the increasing numbers of older people retiring without owning a home.
For the last few decades support for the elderly homeless in Australia has been ad hoc and spread across multiple levels of government, non-government organisations and service providers. There are few organisations that specifically cater for the needs of the ageing homeless.
"However, we’ve welcomed the Federal Government’s greater efforts at addressing this growing problem and its significant injection of funds to tackle the problem," Thomas said.