Mission Australia Says Too Many Older Australians Are Being Pushed Into Homelessness
28 September 2017 at 4:44 pm
Mission Australia says that all levels of government need to address a growing crisis of older Australians being pushed into homelessness.
Ahead of International Day of Older Persons on Sunday 1 October, Mission Australia says too many older Australians are becoming homeless or are at risk of homelessness.
According to 2016 Census data, there are now more than 6.4 million Australians over 55 years old and while data on homelessness from this census is not yet available, figures show more older Australians are seeking homelessness services.
Census data from 2011 indicated that an estimated one in seven people experiencing homelessness (around 15,000 people) were over 55 years old, an increase of 19.2 per cent from the 2006 Census.
This had increased to about 22,000 people over 55 seeking homelessness services in 2015–16; a jump of 15 per cent from the previous year.
Mission Australia CEO, Catherine Yeomans said: “We know from our work at Mission Australia that a range of factors can make people more vulnerable to homelessness as they get older. From health concerns to rental stress and financial insecurity, we can identify what the risks are. Now we need action to address them.
“Too many older Australians are in precarious housing situations. There are more people retiring who do not own their own home and the cost of weekly rents can be a huge financial strain when retirement incomes are so limited.
“Every member of our community should be able to age with dignity, in a home that is safe and secure.”
Yeomans added that supported housing models were important, to ensure those experiencing homelessness could find stable residency.
“After people have been rough sleeping or have experienced homelessness for an extended period, finding permanent accommodation is an essential first step. Wraparound, individual supports are also needed to address the underlying factors that led to homelessness, so we don’t see a cycle where people end up back on the streets,” Yeomans said.
“Supported housing models, like the MISHA Project pilot in Parramatta and Mission Australia’s Common Ground in Camperdown, provide people with a stable place to live while they access services that address their physical and mental health, life skills or other personal needs.”
One older Australian who has experienced homelessness is 72-year-old Henry. He told Pro Bono News he spent almost four months living in a tent at Central Station in Sydney.
“Being out in the cold was difficult, because I was sleeping at parks in bushes. And then I went to Central Station and was sleeping there,” he said.
After he was eventually helped into temporary accommodation, he connected with Mission Australia via their Missionbeat Outreach service.
“I was put into a motel at Surrey Hills for a while. It was there I saw Missionbeat outside… and I asked if they could help me with housing and they said they could,” Henry said.
“They took me into their van and helped me through the tough times I experienced. They settled me into my own home I’m now living in and arranged to get some furniture for me and everything else I needed.
“They bent over backwards to help me.”
Henry said he had noticed that a lot of homeless people were older Australians, and was happy that he was now comfortable and in a stable living situation.
“I’m safe now and I’m eating well. I do feel down sometimes, but it’s not all the time. I do a lot of walking and try to keep active,” he said.
“I’m comfortable, I have everything I need and I am happy now. I couldn’t go through [being homeless] again.
“There is definitely a lot of homeless older people. I counted 23 of them one night at central railway station who were sleeping there.”
He thanked Missionbeat for turning his life around and allowing him to live independently.
“Missionbeat and all their staff were wonderful. They did so much to help me and get me settled,” Henry said.
“They closed my file because I settled and they know I‘m quite content by myself. But they told me they would give me ongoing support if ever I needed it.”