Women’s Homelessness At Record Levels
3 May 2016 at 10:30 am
The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW has urged all levels of government to address the affordable housing crisis after it found a majority of people accessing homelessness services were women.
Data from specialist homelessness services has revealed that 59 per cent of women across the country accessed their services between 2014 and 2015, while the overall number of homeless women across the sector stood at 44 per cent.
Vinnies’ head of fundraising and communications Yolanda Saiz said the leading cause of homelessness among women, especially those with children, was domestic violence.
“We know that of women turning to homelessness services, 36 per cent have been affected by domestic and family violence so it is quite a large proportion. It is a situation that we really need to look at the root cause of why women are having to flee their homes and what factors are keeping them homeless,” Saiz told Pro Bono Australia News.
“Certainly housing affordability is a big part of that issue because when women are fleeing their homes, sometimes on their own or sometimes with their children, it is becoming almost impossible for them to find affordable rental properties, especially in some key metro markets. That is prolonging their homelessness and putting more pressure on specialist homelessness services, including services that Vinnies runs. We know that more and more are turning to crisis accommodation and need help in rebuilding their lives.”
The report also found that women over 55 years were the fastest growing group among homeless women. A variety of reasons contributed to the growth, such as being laid-off from work and struggling to pay-off the mortgage and rent.
Saiz said that homelessness does not discriminate against women and affects people from diverse backgrounds.
“We have a very diverse group of women who turn to us, from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders backgrounds, people from diverse culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, people from metropolitan areas to women from rural and remote locations,” she said.
“The reasons are financial struggles, a lot of domestic violence and many of these women don’t have the tools necessarily to escape domestic violence, such as access to bank accounts, an employment history or evidence of rental history. When they do find themselves at risk of homelessness or are already homeless, it is a very difficult road back for them to re-establish their lives.”
Saiz said that her organisation is investing heavily in their social housing company but wants federal, state and local governments to commit funds and investment into affordable housing.
“We are looking to provide support through Amelie Housing but the lack of affordable housing is one of the leading drivers of financial pressures on individuals and families so we are looking for reform in that area,” she said.
“We have been calling rather persistently for all levels of government to have a real commitment to addressing affordable housing crisis as we see it. It forms an important part of the barriers people have to staying out of homelessness permanently.”