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Two in Three People Seeking Homelessness Help are Women

8 March 2017 at 10:49 am
Ellie Cooper
Almost two in three people seeking homelessness support in Victoria are female, new analysis has revealed, “shattering community perceptions” of the issue.

Ellie Cooper | 8 March 2017 at 10:49 am


Two in Three People Seeking Homelessness Help are Women
8 March 2017 at 10:49 am

Almost two in three people seeking homelessness support in Victoria are female, new analysis has revealed, “shattering community perceptions” of the issue.

The state’s peak body for homelessness, the Council to Homeless Persons, analysed Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Data ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8 March.

CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons Jenny Smith said while the common stereotype of homelessness was “the older male rough sleeper”, the people most likely to seek help were women between 25 and 34 years.

“We’ve always known that women’s homelessness is probably greater than we’ve been seeing in the statistics because women’s homelessness can be so hidden, sleeping in the backs of cars, staying with friends,” Smith told Pro Bono News.

She said this could make women’s homelessness “easier to ignore”.

“But now I think it’s very clear that it’s the biggest problem and that women are seeking assistance in droves,” she said.

“It makes sense, I suppose, when you think women and children fleeing family violence is the single biggest driver of homelessness in our community, but it’s still a big concern to see the rapid rate at which it’s growing.”

The data also showed the number of women experiencing homelessness was growing at a faster rate than for men.

From 2012/13 to 2015/16 the number of females seeking help from homelessness organisations in Victoria grew by 14 per cent. In the same time period, the number of men seeking help grew by 10 per cent.

Smith said, along with domestic and family violence, other related factors were contributing to the rise in women’s homelessness.

“As housing unaffordability sky rockets, we’re seeing women’s inherent financial disadvantage really hit home,” she said.

“Women are on lower incomes, women have less superannuation, women are in and out of the workforce, taking the lead on caring for children.

“And so when they are a single parent and looking to rent something, they have very, very few properties which they are able to afford, and if they’re in disadvantaged circumstances, they’re not able to compete in the very, very tight rental market.”

According to the Department of Human Services 2016 Rent Report, a mother on single parenting payments looking for a two-bedroom rental in Melbourne has just two out of 100 properties which she could afford.

“I think, in the vast majority, it’s an economic problem for women,” Smith said.

“They’ve been forced, perhaps escaping violence, to move from a situation where there’s been a provider or two incomes propping up a mortgage or paying for rental.

“Then in order to, in a family violence circumstance, make sure that they and their children are safe, [they] move to a situation which inevitably makes it more precarious.”

CHP said that the enormous demand on homelessness services combined with limited places to house clients meant that agencies had to turn away too many people in need.  

Last year, more than double the number of women than men, 40 compared to 18.6, were turned away from homelessness services every day.

Smith said these statistics showed the need for targeted services to support women.

“We’re seeing in some jurisdictions like Victoria… private rental brokerage and flexible packages of support being made available to women and children to get them out of the circumstances of being homeless and into a home,” she said.

“I think those innovations are clearly going to work for many women. But we still have a circumstance where the private rental market is prohibitive and we don’t have the national effort in relation to social housing availability that we need.”

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family violence or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.


  • Susan Bailey says:

    Men have learned not to bother asking for housing. 15 years? never? in NSW if you fail to reply to correspondence you are removed from the waiting list

  • jemmi says:

    There are many contributing factors to becoming homeless, Support packages are a good start, but really tackling whats going on within the housing market, is the real issue. Often those bordering on homelessness cannot obtain affordable rentals, often the lower the rental, the worse the accommodation. Because mortgages are so high, landlords increase their rents to cover their repayment costs, and as always this is passed onto the renter. There are many individuals who are living in expensive rentals, with little money left for food, clothing and bills. Often if you find one that is lower in rent, the houses are in appalling disrepair and often in locations with high levels of disadvantage and crime, When you go from two incomes to one after a relationship breakdown, you then become displaced, having to move constantly for work and for cheaper rent. You go overnight from being working middle class to working lower class and are then faced with the reality that you are living in poverty. It is soul destroying. Trying to escape this fate is impossible for many. Add to this raising children, trying to work, balancing the everyday demands of supporting children, maintaining your own health, mental health, stress and the difficulties of financial hardship. Having to pay high rents means there is always stress, there is always a lack of money, which in turn means less choices, less opportunities, social disadvantage and isolation. The more you work, the less you have, your children go without regardless, the costs of sustaining accommodation, electricity and gas (just to name the most expensive) means you never have, and you never will. Lower incomes, less super, no sick or holiday leave (because these are often used to care for children), no time or energy to study and advance yourself. When your children learn about poverty at school and then there is that day that they make the connection, that they are actually poor, it is heartbreaking. This awareness creates anger, frustration and jealousy. When others start to identify that they are poor, the teasing starts, the remarks, the hostility and they are then treated like the under class.

    Homelessness has many faces, just remember, before you judge others, there is often a story behind the individual who is now homeless. It is possible that he/she once had a life just like yours.


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