Who’s most likely to seek homelessness assistance? Not the person you’d think.


Who is the average person seeking help for #homelessness? Not who you’d expect: She’s 25-34 and probably has a child Click To Tweet

 

Contrary to the stereotype of the older homeless man, new data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that the person most likely to seek homelessness help in Victoria is a 25-34 year old woman, most probably with a child in tow.

 

The number of Victorian women seeking homelessness help has jumped 23% since 2012-13, and is rising twice as fast as men, who recorded a 12% increase over the same period.

 

Victoria’s housing affordability crisis is much to blame, says the peak body for homelessness, who say women find it much harder to find affordable rentals due to gender issues such as wage gap, low single parent benefits, and compounding factors resulting from family violence

 

 

 

Table: Number of Victorians seeking homelessness assistance year-on-year

 

2012-13

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

% increase over 4 years

Male

36657

39712

40238

41122

12%

Female

55805

63081

65049

68778

23%

 

The AIHW Specialist Homelessness Service data collects information on how many people seek homelessness assistance by age and gender, plus other information such as the reasons they need help, and what kind of support they wanted.

The AIHW report released on 14 December shows that last financial year 109,901 Victorians sought homelessness help, and that 2-in-3 (63%) of them were women.

In 2016-17, 21,683 women aged 25-34 went to homelessness services, more than twice the number of men in that age bracket.

 

Family violence continues to be one of the top drivers of homelessness in Victoria, with 44% of people seeking homeless help citing domestic and family violence as one of the reasons.

Women’s increased risk of homelessness is due to family violence, a fierce private rental market which has priced part-time worker single mothers out of the market, the low single-parent benefit, the female wage gap, lower savings due to time out of the workforce caring for kids, less super. A single mother working part-time and receiving some benefits is no longer able to find an affordable 2-bedroom rental anywhere in metro Melbourne or in Geelong, Ballarat or Frankston, according to the most recent Rental Affordability Index.

The solution: In its 2018-19 State Budget Submission, The Council to Homeless Persons is calling for an extra 14,500 extra social housing properties to be built over the next five years in Victoria, so that women on low incomes, and their children, have safe, affordable homes that don’t leave them living in poverty or at risk of homelessness because they can’t pay the rent.

Agencies are struggling because Federal housing and homelessness funding has failed to keep pace with growing demand, and the cost of renting keeps rising faster than incomes, pushing a constant and increasing flow of people into homelessness.

Despite thousands more people lining up at agency doors every year, Federal homelessness funding to the States has not increased in real terms. The federal government is asleep at the wheel while we’re left bucketing water on the titanic.

Static Federal funding, pitifully low Centrelink incomes and not enough social housing stock have created a perfect storm, and too often, it’s women who are caught in the crosshairs.

Homelessness will continue to rise until Governments drastically boost social housing and properly fund homelessness services.