Nora is 62 and has dodged homelessness by living with friends and family, including her children. She was a stay-at-home mum and has no super or savings. Her husband recently passed away. She has not been able to afford to pay rent since.
In recent years, older women have caught the public’s attention as the ‘new face of homelessness. Coupled with the fact that housing affordability is an issue of real urgency for communities right across NSW, with tough COVID-19 restrictions pushing housing prices up while simultaneously increasing unemployment.
Last month The Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW launched its annual Awareness Week campaign around a collective effort for greater awareness and action on affordable housing in NSW with the intention to influence legislative change at a state level.
While Nora’s story may be fictional, her circumstances are an unfortunate reality for a growing number of women. Statistics show that there are an estimated 116,000+ homeless people in Australia at any given time, with women over 55 years of age the fastest growing cohort.
Unequal pay rates, uneven accumulation of assets, and superannuation gaps are seen as the biggest drivers for the rising rates of homelessness for these women, compounded by situations of family violence, where women without adequate financial means are often forced to choose between homelessness and returning to an unsafe place.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:
• 6,866 older women were homeless, a 31% increase from 2011
• 5,820 older women lived in marginal housing and were at risk of homelessness
• 55-74 year old women who seek support from homelessness services has increased by 55% in the last decade
CWA of NSW is using its traditional ‘tea and scones’ reputation to tackle the state’s affordable housing crisis and advocate for those vulnerable to homelessness during this unbelievably difficult time.
It’s going to take a whole lot of people to fight this systemic issue. There’s no quick fix to the challenges that people experiencing homelessness face.