Tipping points into homelessness: an older person who’s partner has recently died

Throughout Anti-Poverty Week (16-22 October 2016) we are rolling out a series of vignettes and infographics of people who find themselves on the edge of homelessness when the high cost of housing collides with the ‘tipping point’ of an unexpected life event. Subscribe to eNews to get these updates delivered direct to your inbox.


Maria is a 74- year old woman who lost her husband George to cancer six months ago. They had been married for 52 years. Maria is keen to stay in the area because her support networks are there, including the family doctor and the senior citizens group she’s a part of. George worked as a delivery driver, and retired at age 60. Since then they had been surviving on the old age pension. Having retired in the late 1990s, George had not accrued much superannuation.

Maria had their first of three children when she was 21 and was a stay at home mother from that time on, meaning she had no superannuation or savings.

Two of her children have moved interstate, and the remaining daughter lives 15km away in the Western suburbs. Twice a week she drives to her daughter’s place for dinner and to see her grandchildren.

When George was diagnosed with cancer they had to delve into their superannuation to pay for certain treatments. Maria has medical problems of her own that require medication, including arthritis, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

When George died Maria’s income went down by nearly 40 percent. She downsized to a small one-bedroom apartment that is old, with poor insulation. Due to her arthritis, Maria has to heat the apartment heavily in winter, causing her bills to rise. She pays $315 per week in rent plus bills.

Maria got her electricity bill last week which was $350.

Income and expenses per week:

Income: $503.85

Expenses: $495

Pension: $438.55

Rent: $315

Rent assistance: $65.30

Utilities: $25


Food: $80


Medical costs incl. medication: $45

Pet expenses: $10

Petrol/car costs: $20

Difference: $8.85