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 1800RESPECT.org.au.