Older people are becoming homeless in increasing numbers.
This week is homelessness week and community service organisation Baptist Care Australia is calling for action to stem the tide of insecure and marginal housing for Australians aged over 55.
“The most recent 2016 Census revealed a 28 per cent increase in homeless people over 55 years compared to 2011,” said Marcia Balzer, Baptist Care Australia executive director.
“Older people are over-represented in insecure accommodation like boarding houses and among marginal residents of caravan parks – 42 per cent of marginal residents in caravan parks are over 55.
“Clearly, older people are finding it increasingly difficult to access secure affordable housing. Our Baptist Care organisations see the results of this every day as demand for social housing among older people far outstrips supply.
“As part of the Everybody’s Home alliance, Baptist Care Australia is calling on governments at all levels to work together to achieve the goal of eliminating homelessness by 2030.
“Other countries and communities have had remarkable success in eliminating homelessness. If there’s the political will, we can do it too.”
Earlier this week, delegates at the National Homelessness Conference in Melbourne heard how Finland eradicated rough sleeping by replacing shelters with permanent homes paired with intensive support.
Homelessness Australia, the national peak body for homelessness, says Australian governments can learn from countries that have invested in affordable housing as a response to homelessness.
In Finland, social housing is up to 20 per cent of all housing stock (in Australia, it’s 4.7 per cent).
The homelessness crisis has been growing in Australia, driven by a population boom and the worsening housing crisis. Homelessness rose 14 per cent over five years to 2016 (ABS) while spending on housing and homelessness declined 16 per cent over the same period.
“We need a plan,” Ms Balzer said. “A national plan that everyone agrees with and works to achieve. It needs to address the causes of homelessness.
“Increasing the supply of affordable social housing is essential to ending homelessness. This will cost money given how badly neglected social housing has become. But we don’t have a choice if we want to live in a country where older people have a roof over their heads.
“Every one of us will be an older Australian eventually. We need to make sure we can provide, safe, secure and affordable shelter for everyone regardless of age or circumstance,” Ms Balzer said.
Would you like our Government to follow Finland’s lead and end homelessness?