Not-for-profit organisation Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH), Knox City Council together with Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) are hosting a forum on April 14 in Wantirna South to help raise awareness of this issue and support older people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities to find secure, affordable housing.
Iboja Farkash, 57, is among a growing number of older people who have faced barriers trying to access secure housing.
Without support from VMCH, Ms Farkash believes she may be living on the streets.
After migrating from Hungary in her early 20s, Ms Farkash built a successful wedding dress business, married and owned a house in Ferntree Gully.
Then, around two years ago, she lost her business and was forced to sell her home to clear financial debts.
What followed was a dark time of uncertainty and instability with countless moves thanks to failed promises from real estate agents of long-term leases.
The constant house moves, compounded by long-term health and emotional issues, had Ms Farkash – now also divorced – feeling “hopeless and alone”.
Ms Farkash found support through VMCH’s Assistance with Care and Housing for the Aged (ACHA) program and VMCH Case Manager Amy Yuen.
“Amy helped me through the whole rental process and to find a new house with a long-term lease several months ago. Now I feel safe and secure and can get on with my life. I’m grateful, happy and this has really given me hope to go on,” Ms Farkash says.
She will share her story at the upcoming forum in an effort to “give back and let others know that it is possible to get a home for life”.
April Bragg, Manager of HAAG, says Ms Farkash’s story is common.
“Older renters from CALD backgrounds often experience discrimination and hardship in the private rental market due to language barriers, a lack of knowledge of Australian housing systems and poorer overall socio-economic status compared to the older Anglo-Australian population,” Ms Bragg says.
“This puts them at significant risk of becoming homeless.”
She adds the climate of the current property market doesn’t help matters.
“Along with lower rates of home ownership and reductions in the supply of public housing, the private rental market is becoming the main housing option available for people on low incomes. However, private rental housing is highly insecure, unaffordable and unadaptable for people as they age.”
City of Knox Mayor, Tony Holland, says homelessness is a community issue that requires many types of organisations and individuals to be involved.
“As an important provider of community services, the City of Knox is pleased to be part of this forum. We hope the forum raises more than just awareness. We want people from the community with good ideas to come forward and be part of the process of tackling this important social problem,” he says.
“Like many areas, Knox has an ageing population. Older people make significant contributions to our community and it’s important that the entire community works together to help them as they get older and potentially more vulnerable.”
The forum is open to anyone interested in the topic and will run from 10am to 12.30pm at Knox City Council’s Civic Centre, Room 3 and 4, 511 Burwood Hwy, Wantirna South.For more information contact Amy Yuen on 1300 971 720.