IWD 2017: We won’t have true equality until women have the housing and support they need
This International Women's Day we're using hard data to shatter community perceptions about homelessness.
Contrary to the stereotype of the older male rough sleeper, the person mostly likely to seek help from a homeless service is a woman aged 25-34 years. Last financial year, 62% of Victorians needing homeless help were female. That's nearly 2-in-3 clients.
Homelessness is on the rise in every city, town and suburb. But worryingly, the rate at which women are seeking help is growing much faster than men. Over the last 3 years, there has been a 14% increase in the number of women needing help from services, compared to a 10% rise in men.
Women’s homelessness can be easier to ignore, because they’re less likely to be sleeping on the street, but the effects of homelessness are damaging and lasting, no matter what form it takes.
Women are more likely to be at risk of homelessness because of inherent financial disadvantage, a lack of housing that women on low incomes can afford, and the increasing reporting of family violence, which continues to be a major driver of homelessness. A mother on single parenting payments looking for a two-bedroom rental in Melbourne, has just 2-in-100 properties which she could afford (DHS, Rent Report, 2016).
Number of women seeking assistance from Victorian homelessness services
Rate of growth
(2012-13 vs 2015-16)
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services data (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)
The enormous demand on homelessness services combined with limited places to house clients means that agencies have to turn away too many people in need. Last year, twice as many women were turned away from homelessness services every day, when compared to men. Critically, CHP has called for our sector to be better resourced to focus on preventing homelessness in women through housing and support programs that help women and children stay housed.
Justice Connect Homeless Law has released a two-year report on its Women's Homelessness Prevention Project. The report pulls together 10 women's stories and 10 calls for change.
- Strengthen safeguards to make evictions into homelessness a last resort
- Invest in services proven to keep women in housing and resolve legal issues stemming from family violence
- Improve the legal framework for victims of family violence to keep their housing
- Improve legal mechanisms for exiting leases due to family violence
- Prevent victims of family violence being penalised for damage or arrears caused by perpetrators
- Strengthen policies and oversight to avoid inappropriate debts for public housing tenants (for more on this recommendation see our recent position paper, Through the Roof: Improving the Office of Housing’s policies and processes for dealing with housing debts)
- Promote the ability of tenants to retrieve and keep their belongings when their tenancy ends
- Make human rights meaningful and accessible
- Support the private rental sector to avoid unnecessary evictions
- Plan for – and invest in – significant growth in affordable housing.
No. of people turned away from Vic homelessness services each day (AIHW, 2015-16)
Number of Victorian clients turned away each day
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