Older women and homelessness: How this aged care facility is providing a safe haven

Homeless older woman

Not-for-profit aged care provider Uniting is making over a vacant aged care home to create housing for 36 older women who need a safe place to live temporarily. 

Homelessness is a serious issue facing older women. The number of homeless women aged between 65 and 75 has increased almost 80% in five years, with the actual figure likely to be higher, as many don’t report their homelessness. 

Simon Furness, Director of Property and Housing with Uniting, told A Current Affair the building may not be approved for aged care for another two years.

Older women don’t always feel “safe or comfortable” in traditional boarding houses, where many women fleeing domestic violence will be referred.

Furness noted that the repurposed aged care home is not a “solution” to homelessness for older women. 

Former high profile public relations executive Glen Marie Frost became homeless at 64 after finding herself without income or assets. She now lives in public housing and believes there are 150,00 older women who require safe accommodation.

“If it could happen to me it could happen to anyone,” Frost told A Current Affair

Frost said she was “angry” she didn’t “protect” herself better when she was younger from falling into homelessness later in her life.

Homeless women are invisible, she observed. 

“They stay with friends, or couch surf as we call it. They also live in garages, or in the city they’ll find a little niche somewhere where they feel protected.”

RizeUp is a community group that sets up homes for women fleeing domestic violence, helping them regain their independence and make decisions to move their life forward. Goods are sourced through social media or donations. 

Louise Sharp, a volunteer for RizeUp, said domestic violence is “such an awful thing”. 

“It’s bigger than you can imagine,” she said.

Sharp told A Current Affair that older women facing domestic violence “need to know there are services out there that can help”.

This is the second time Uniting has temporarily repurposed an aged care home to help homeless women. The first time they embarked on such a venture was in 2018.

For many older women, Uniting’s repurposed aged care home will make it possible to take that difficult first step towards a new future.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or visit https://www.lifeline.org.au/

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  1. What about repurposing industrial units & equipping them with a direct line to housing department? One unit in every town could be a santuary for homeless people until public housing becomes available.

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