A lack of affordable housing is contributing to growing number of homeless seniors, who are one of the most vulnerable groups due to complex needs, says aged care organisation.
As Australia marks Homelessness Prevention Week (3 – 9 August), national data reveals that on any given night, one in 200 people are without housing, while Census data puts 14 per cent of the homeless nationally as aged over 55.
In a submission to the City of Sydney’s Housing Issues Paper, which closed for contributions last Friday, HammondCare said older people make up a significant proportion of the 3,306 homeless people in inner Sydney. The provider said that older people were currently overlooked in conversations about homelessness, despite the fact that they were one of the most vulnerable demographics to become homeless due to limited fixed incomes and high health costs.
“Housing affordability is one of the most significant causes of homelessness for those who become homeless in later life,” it said in its submission.
“Older people are generally assumed to be homeowners. The age pension and aged care system are designed on the assumption that older people own their own home, and yet increasingly this is not the case.”
Data presented by HammondCare suggested that by 2026, the amount of older people who are renting will increase by 115 per cent, placing them at increased risk of housing stress. Median rent prices currently are set to exceed 30 per cent of the maximum age pension available, even with additional rental assistance.
A key feature of the Federal Government’s Living Longer, Living Better reform was to enable older people to stay in their own home as long as possible. However, the submission notes that for renters, the ability to stay in their own home is subject to tenancy agreements that bias short-term stay. It recommended the NSW Government update tenancy agreements to reflect the shift in the housing market towards longer-term renting. A lack of freedom to make modifications to homes with assistive technology without prior landlord approval and sensitivity to rental increases were also noted as issues.
Care for the older homeless
While there were several homelessness services in Sydney, HammondCare said few tailored specifically for those who were older and required fundamentally different service models.
“Older homeless people often have complex health needs and present with challenging behaviours associated with dementia. For these people, simply providing accommodation is not sufficient and high levels of physical and psychological care is also required,” it said.
HammondCare also noted that the long-term homeless do not generally access mainstream residential aged care, despite being identified as a special needs group in the Aged Care Act.
“Most residential aged care services do not provide a care environment that is suited to older homeless people with non-traditional housing histories and complex health needs,” said the submission. “Many long-term homeless people have moved in and out of institutional environments and are reluctant to enter residential aged care as a result.”
Three services in inner Sydney provide long-term accommodation and care for those who are homeless – Mission Australia’s Annie Green Court, Charles Chambers Court and St Vincent de Paul Society’s Frederic House – but the submission noted these services were under significant strain and could keep up with future demand.
HammondCare recommended that the City of Sydney prioritise homeless specific services and ensure land is available for residential aged care targeted at homeless people.
Related AAA coverage:
- Call for affordable housing as homeless older women issue escalates
- Aged care policy cannot be blind to seniors’ housing issue: Senate
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