Life shocks – such as a death of a spouse, relationship breakdown or health decline – are the key causes of homelessness for older people, according to research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).
The number of homeless Australians aged over 65 jumped by 30% between 2011 to 2016, as one-in-seven Australians over 55 experienced homelessness and 32% live on less than $400 a week.
The research entitled ‘An effective homelessness services system for older Australians’ was undertaken for AHURI by researchers from the University of South Australia and Swinburne University of Technology.
The report categorised three broad groups for older Australians who become homeless:
- Those with conventional housing histories who experience a financial or other shock late in life, such as eviction from rental housing, relationship breakdown, the death of a spouse or a decline in their health;
- Those who had experienced long-term social exclusion and had previously experienced homelessness; and
- People with transient work and housing histories.
The research identified the current support system was fragmented, poorly resourced and unable to provide long-term solutions, while the welfare system was difficult to navigate for older people, particularly the online aspect.
Out of 1,518 homelessness services nationally, only three are specialist services for older people.
University of South Australia Professor Andrew Beer, one of the report authors, said poverty was a root cause of homelessness.
“Having a lower income than needed to sustain a decent, healthy and secure life creates a marginal position in the housing market that can result in the loss of safe, affordable accommodation, which can then lead to homelessness,” Beer said.
“With an ageing population and a decline in home ownership, we can expect further growth in rates of homelessness amongst older Australians.”