Increasing numbers of older women in Australia are experiencing, or are at risk of homelessness, with a rise of over 30% in just 5 years. Experts recognise that due to the ‘hidden’ nature of older women’s homelessness, these figures may not represent the full extent of the issue today. There is a range of underlying structural and cultural factors leading to women’s economic disadvantage. This, coupled with an ageing population, means that the risk of homelessness among single older women is projected to increase.
Homeless women typically stay with friends or family, live in their car or in severely crowded dwellings, or are physically ‘hiding’. Often older women are experiencing homelessness for the first time at this later stage in life, having lived conventional lives—and they may still be working or seeking work.
Innovative solutions are needed to prevent women becoming homeless. Solutions must consider the range of life circumstances of women—from their assets, income and capacity to work, through to housing requirements and preferences—and aim to enhance women’s housing and economic security across the remainder of their working lives and throughout retirement.
This background paper provides context regarding older women’s homelessness. It offers some potential solutions to reduce women’s risk of homelessness with a focus on preventative and innovative approaches that look beyond social and community housing as the answer.