Housing stress hurting seniors, homelessness rising |Video

 Regional leader for Central and Far West Ann Winterton and CEO Catherine Yeomans. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE
Regional leader for Central and Far West Ann Winterton and CEO Catherine Yeomans. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

The number of older people, particularly women, accessing homelessness services is continuing to grow.

A new report by Mission Australia on ageing and homelessness has found increasing levels of housing stress has lead to a higher percentage of those 55-years and over reaching out for assistance from homelessness services.

The latest homelessness figures from 2011 showed almost 400 people identified as homeless in the Orana and Far West.

Nationwide there were about 22,000 people aged over 55 who used homelessness services in 2015/16. It was a 15 per cent increase from the year before.

The three main reasons for seeking assistance were the housing crisis, domestic and family violence, and financial difficulties.

In Dubbo, one in ten people experience rental stress –  that is, their rent payments were greater than or equal to 30 per cent of their income – while one in twenty reported mortgage stress.

The median rental price in Dubbo is $265 per week and the median mortgage repayment is $379 per week. The aged pension, with the pension supplement and the energy supplement, equates to $447 per week for singles. For couples the pension equates to $337 each per week.

VIDEO: Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeoman’s speaking on homelessness during her visit to Dubbo earlier in the year.

Older women were more vulnerable to later-in-life homelessness, according to the Mission Australia report.

“Older women are more likely to be in lone person households, have lower retirement savings due to caring responsibilities, be out of the paid workforce and are more likely to have experienced domestic and family violence than older men,” it states.

Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said everyone, particularly older Australians, deserved a safe and secure home, where they could look after their mental and physical health.

“We need to invest in social housing that is appropriate for older people; housing that is accessible and designed to accommodate their particular needs. Mission Australia is calling for a commitment from government to build 60,000 additional social housing dwellings specifically for older people,” she said.

As well as increased and more flexible housing options for older Australians, Mission Australia has also called for the government to review social security payments for pensioners and increase funding for community service organisations to support older people at risk of homelessness.