With a goal of $20,000 by the end of the month, Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) and StreetSmart Australia are working together to encourage support, advocacy and fundraising from the community for older women who are facing homelessness or living rough.
National Development Worker with HAAG, Jeff Fiedler, says that older women are at increased risk of homelessness due to them often spending many years out of the workforce caring, receiving lower wage, and not having superannuation, among other contributing factors.
He says the aim of the initiative and working with fundraising mobiliser StreetSmart is to bring together older people who have been at risk of homelessness, the majority women, to advocate for better community awareness on the issue and seek improvements from Commonwealth and State Government policies on affordable housing.
“Being female is a key factor in being at risk of homelessness… [and] NSW is the most difficult state in Australia to be a private renter as well as being the most expensive state to rent,” Mr Fiedler explains.
“The average rent for a one bedroom flat in NSW is approximately $450 a week, with the maximum Age Pension, including rent assistance, sitting at $510 a week.
“This has meant that many older people in NSW are forced to relocate to regional NSW, away from family and friends, essential medical services and transport, there are also many older people in NSW who can no longer afford the private rental market who are living permanently in insecure or temporary housing arrangements.”
As a result of their collaborative efforts so far, $17,000 of their $20,000 goal has already been achieved.
StreetSmart Lead Fundraiser Sharna de Lacy says the support of the cause so far has been overwhelming.
“We were thrilled at the support over the December period, with some quite large donations coming from the public,” she says.
“It is clearly something people care about - even myself, I really worry about the women in my life who are approaching retirement with very little superannuation and still in the rental market.
“It’s something that touches all of our lives.
“We need to look after people when they age, not push them into deep poverty, and the donations so far demonstrate that there is a shared desire for change.”
Ms de Lacy encourages more Australians to get on board with supporting and donating to the cause to help them reach, and even exceed their month’s target.
“The homelessness sector is critically underfunded and overwhelmed by demand… and funding support for an older women’s homelessness advocacy group is not something public funding would support,” she says.
“We are here to support good ideas, and listen to what services need - our grants mean they can pursue those ideas, or fill a gap left by federal funding cuts.
“It means they can deliver better services to the people they assist.”
In supporting HAAG, Ms de Lacy says the not-for-profit has their support due to a “long track record of being a voice for older Australians”, adding that StreetSmart has already supported a number of HAAG initiatives in the past.
“Our StreetFunder campaign will specifically be supporting older women who have experienced homelessness to establish an advocacy group, because let’s face it, older people are ‘invisible’ and women most of all,” she says.
“They should be front and centre in these debates, and that’s why we are supporting HAAG to create and advocacy group of women with the lived experience.”