Rent increases and CEO sleepouts

1046 CEOs of Australian companies slept out to help raise awareness for homelessness.

CEO Sleepout, Homeless, Australia, Raise Awareness, Companies, Accommodation, Life, Food, TV, Older, Rates, Poverty

Last night 1046 CEOs of Australian companies slept out to help raise awareness and funds for those who live without a roof over their heads. There are three broad definitions of homelessness, according to the Homelessness Australia website:

  • Having no accommodation, sleeping rough
  • Frequent moves between temporary shelter
  • Staying in accommodation which falls below minimum community standards

Meanwhile the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) yesterday released results of the 2011 Census, highlighting changes in the way we live, work and play over the past five years. One number in particular stood out, and that was an increase of 49 per cent in weekly median rents.

Are you paying rent? How much has your rent increased in recent years?

Comment - When homeless means hopeless

So what do the above statistics mean for older Australians, in particular those who are living on an Age Pension and not fortunate enough to own their own home?

Guaranteed poverty for the rest of their lives is the short answer. 

Currently more than 20,000 people aged over 55 fall into one of the three categories of homelessness and this number is growing.

Sadly, this situation will get even worse. With a higher proportion of over 55-year-olds, many of whom cannot get long-term work and rapidly increasing rents, the situation can only get worse. Homeowners who are force to live on a full Age Pension are living about $2000 below the minimum required for a modest lifestyle. If you factor rent into the weekly budget, then you are living in poverty. If your rent is increasing at a rate of nearly 50 per cent over a five-year period, you will be under extreme pressure to make ends meet. Little wonder that more and more older Australians are scraping out an existence in caravan parks and boarding houses. And a lack of public housing only adds to this problem.

So what are the answers?

As always, the marginal existence of older Australians does not receive a lot of attention from media obsessed with celebrity gossip, food porn and reality TV shows. As a society we seem to have hardened our hearts to the plight of those who do not have a roof over their heads. So first we must get the conversation about this lack of equity started – and then we must keep it going, putting pressure on our parliamentary representatives to focus on issues which really matter. More financial literacy support may help future generations to save harder and enter their retirement years with a nest egg that ensures reasonable accommodation during their life course. For those who are already in retirement and have missed out on the benefit of years of superannuation contributions, there are no quick fixes. So an increase of $2000 in the Age Pension remains a minimum requirement to ensure they will be better taken care of. Those who are renting will still live below the poverty level, but hopefully won’t be left to sleep rough. And appropriately planned public housing for older Australians under economic pressure is a major priority.

It is commendable that 1046 CEOs slept out on what is the shortest, and often coldest, day of the year to highlight the problem of homelessness. But tonight they will return to their warm homes purchased with executive salaries and the pain and awareness will recede. For 20,000 or more over 55s tonight will be like last night and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow – the deprivation is real and ongoing.

What do you think? Are older Australians increasingly vulnerable to losing the roof over their heads? Does the Age Pension need to be increased immediately to ensure this does not happen?

Find out more about Homeless Persons Week August 6-12 2012.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    22nd Jun 2012
    Dad but realistic-trust that our policy makers are viewing this and TAKING ACTION
    Nan Norma
    22nd Jun 2012
    It is a sad stay of affairs when the latest arrivels are moving into Public housing while Australian tax payers are becoming homeless.There is talk about moving older people of their homes but who will be moving in?
    22nd Jun 2012
    I have not had a chance to read this. But my query is why does the government help people not lose their home? I got cancer, couldnt work and lost my job. I could not get access to my pitiful superannuation, which would have been enough to cover the small mortgage I had on my home. I had to sell. what then I had money left, so I could not have any other kind of assistance until I was broke. So a woman, alone. Spent a lot of my life getting the little flat I had as a home. Now homeless and broke..still cant get a job, too old and cancer frightens folk like you would not believe. All so that the super fund could hang onto my pitiful 50 thousand dollars...ohh and they have of course lost this now...and i will never be able to give them more money to lose...sad really.
    No way of allowing people to have their dignity.
    Nan Norma
    22nd Jun 2012
    In circumstances like your, I really think you should have been able to access you super. You needed a roof over your head more than anything else. I am so sorry for you and wish you a full recovery.
    23rd Jun 2012
    What happens when you have a house full of furniture and am on the list for a 1 bedroom unit only be told you don't qualify for that and need to go into a studio unit. I realize you have to downsize but when you only get a pittance of what your furniture is worth and you have to start again and buy smaller bed etc it is a bit daunting when you are on your own with no help from family. Beggars should not be choosers and at least a roof over my head but I was devastated to hear this is what I would have to do.
    Nan Norma
    23rd Jun 2012
    Yes, it may sound easy just to say single older people can move out but there are a lot of things that must be concidered. Transport, shops, medical facilities etc. Plus there are local groups they may belong to and they will lose friends. Some people will be thrown into depression. I feel if they are going to be moved there must be a follow to make sure they are alright.
    23rd Jun 2012
    CEO's sleeping rough will really accomplish nothing. We should be able to see people sleeping on the streets and empathise without having to 'walk a mile in their shoes'. CEO's talents could be put to much better use to find a solution.

    Apparently lots of single mothers are now living together to share costs and it is working out well. Perhaps our elders could do the same thing. Not everyone could live together in harmony but if enough people are interested it WOULD be possible to find the right mix.

    Imagine ruling out loneliness, poverty and lack of support with one blow. Fantastic!
    23rd Jun 2012
    One night in the cold,why don't they build more places for homeless people,plenty of land in NSW and QLD,too much in handing out money to other countries.Mothers and children living
    in one rooms.People in cars.
    Wake up Polies and look after our own,fed up with this Govt.This is suppose to be the ''lucky country''
    Nan Norma
    23rd Jun 2012
    Yes, yes. bluemoon, you are so right. They used to have hostels once for new arrivals, they should have them again.
    6th Aug 2012
    Such as life ; Just at the time you make ends meet someone moves the ends. There is no winners in life anymore just survivers..

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