Working to Prevent Homelessness for Older Women

Economic insecurity, limited affordable housing, and family violence are just some of the reasons why women over 40 are increasingly at risk of, or experiencing homelessness. For women in these situations, rapid rehousing is critical to building a stable future.

The philanthropically funded Women’s Rapid Rehousing Program moves women and their children out of homelessness as quickly as possible, or helps prevent an experience of homelessness altogether. It provides flexible short-term financial assistance that meets the individual needs of participants.

Launch Housing partners with Justice Connect’s Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project to implement the program.

Since its launch in July 2016, the program has supported 217 households. Between January and June this year alone, 29 households established new tenancies and 21 successfully maintained their tenancies.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals 63% of people accessing Victorian specialist homelessness services are women.

(Image: credited to Unsplash)

The Causes of Homelessness for Older Women

Research indicates that as women get older, they may experience factors (many related to gender inequality) that result in a higher risk of homelessness.

The most common of these include:

  • Disrupted working histories due to caring responsibilities;
  • Lower wages due to a gender pay gap in many industries;
  • Lower superannuation balances;
  • Illness or injury;
  • Changes in household make-up (separation, divorce, widowhood), and
  • Family violence.

For older women experiencing family violence, there are a number of barriers to leaving violent relationships, such as financial dependence, the presence of children, or cultural pressures.

The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveal more than 109,000 clients were assisted by specialist homelessness services in Victoria from 2016-17.  Of those, 44% cited domestic and family violence as the reason they sought support from services.

Moving into a new, safe home

Claire* is a 55-year-old woman who has experienced recurring homelessness for a number of years.

She was recently living in an unsafe and inadequately maintained private rooming house. She approached Justice Connect after being issued with a 60-day notice to vacate due to the sale of the rooming house.

Due to previous car accidents, Claire has an acquired brain injury, suffers from short-term memory loss, has a mental health diagnosis and experiences mobility challenges. Claire has also experienced family violence in the past.

Justice Connect supported Claire to apply for identification, search for private rentals, and complete applications for social and community housing. Claire was able to successfully secure a private rental property.

She then accessed financial support from Launch Housing’s Women’s Rapid Rehousing program to pay for movers.

Claire says the flexible financial assistance provided by the Women’s Rapid Rehousing Program played a significant role in helping her from the unsafe rooming house into her new home.

She has not had safe, sustainable housing for a considerable amount of time and is delighted that her 13-year-old son can now visit her in her own home.

*The client’s name has been changed for this story.

**Please note that it is only possible to access the Women’s Rapid Rehousing Program if you are an eligible client of Launch Housing or Justice Connect.