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National Homelessness Week suggests number of seniors on the streets is set to rise

A discussion has been started about the increasing number of elderly Australians living on the streets in light of National Homelessness Week 2017, running from August 7-13.

Over 15,000 people over the age of 55 sleeping rough in Australia each night (Source: Shutterstock)
Over 15,000 people over the age of 55 sleeping rough in Australia each night (Source: Shutterstock)

The fears expressed this week by a number of peak bodies for senior care have been cemented by the recently released Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) housing assistance web report.

Released in July, the report reveals that more than half of social housing tenants are over 55, with even more vulnerable seniors on a waiting list of 194,6000 applicants.

The IRT Foundation is at the heart of the seniors housing issue with Manager Toby Dawson saying that older women are the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia.

“On any given night there’s over 15,000 people over the age of 55 sleeping rough in Australia, including 2000 over the age of 75,” he says.

“That’s 300 busloads of Aussie seniors with nowhere to call home, and the research says that 64 percent of them will die within five years.

“Older women are particularly vulnerable to becoming homeless because a lifetime of caring for others may leave them with little or no super.

“The single age pension is only $440 a week, which doesn’t cover the high cost of living and makes standard rental accommodation unaffordable.”

Mr Dawson says the statistics for elderly homelessness are ‘truly shocking’ and that government support for homelessness is primarily targeted at young people and families.

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) is also ‘deeply concerned’ about the rising rates of homelessness amongst older Australians as figures suggest the problem will become more prominent as the population ages rapidly.

“Homelessness is a complex issues with many causes and effects,” ACSA Chief Executive Pat Sparrow says.

“We know that many older people can find themselves at risk of homelessness through life events; the death of a spouse, a lack of affordable housing or inability to live off the pension, for example.”

The IRT Foundation, through their Assistance with Care and Housing (ACH) Program, helped 90 clients in 2016/17.

The program matches clients with age-friendly, affordable housing, including IRT Communities, which provide housing at below-market rent in its lifestyle communities.

“We want to help more disadvantaged older people get off the streets and into safe, secure housing,” Mr Dawson says.

“That’s why this National Homelessness Week we are calling on the community to join us and donate to our Neverland Ball Fundraising Campaign.”

The Neverland Ball will be held on 1 September from 6pm at the University of Wollongong’s Uni Hall and will see attendees dress up in black tie and masquerade masks and indulge in food, drinks, dancing and participation in the auction of donated goods with all proceeds going towards age-friendly communities.

Last year, the Neverland Ball raised more than $22,000 with Mr Dawson saying the ‘more money we raise, the more vulnerable people we can help.”

Tickets to this years Neverland Ball are available online where you can also make a donation, or gift an experience or prize to auction off at the Ball.

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