Women bear the brunt of homelessness


Women bear the brunt
New research shows there is an increasing trend of homelessness and housing insecurity among women.

The soaring cost of living across Sydney is forcing more people to seek out homeless and supported accommodation services, with a new report showing that women bear the biggest brunt of homelessness and housing insecurity.  

CatholicCare Social Services Diocese of Parramatta is joining with other Churches and community organisations to shine a light on the urgent and growing problem of homelessness, especially in western Sydney, and to call for more affordable housing to be made available to people in need.


To help promote discussion of homelessness and to examine possible solutions, CatholicCare Parramatta and Churches Housing Inc. will co-host a Community Forum on Homelessness on 8 November. The forum will be held at the Parkroyal Parramatta and feature experts in the field as well as people who have experienced homelessness.

CatholicCare’s Executive Director, Otto Henfling, said two recent reports, from Anglicare and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, highlighted the growing problems surrounding homelessness.

“These reports reflect the practical experience of the Church’s support services in western Sydney such as CatholicCare’s Catherine Villa program and the San Miguel Family Centre, a ministry of the De La Salle Brothers,” he said.

Catherine Villa offers supported accommodation and support programs for pregnant young women and young mothers and their children. “In the past 12 months alone, we have received more than 300 requests for supported accommodation for vulnerable young mothers,” Mr Henfling said. “This is a significant increase on the previous year, and many, many more than we have the capacity to accommodate.”

The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare also show that the use of homelessness services is on the rise, with women aged 15-19 having the highest rate of use by any one age group (1 in every 51 people).

“As the cost of living continues to soar in Sydney and rents remain high, it is clear that there is an urgent need for investment in public and supported housing to ensure that more people, especially young mothers and their children, don’t end up living on the streets or in their car,” Mr Henfling said.

Anglicare’s State of Sydney 2011 report looked specifically at the impact of housing insecurity on three groups of women: young mothers, single women over 50 and women caring for a son or daughter with a disability.

It found that housing insecurity is not just about shelter and poverty. Lack of stable and affordable housing can be faced by women from all socio-economic backgrounds and has a significant impact on individual and family wellbeing.

Anglicare’s 2011 Rental Affordability Snapshot found only 73 private rental properties out of the 10,000 on offer in Sydney and the Illawarra were affordable for lowincome households.

Sue King, Director of Advocacy at Anglicare Sydney, said when inadequate income and unaffordable housing come together, there is a perfect storm for  isadvantage and vulnerability, with young mothers and single older women finding it harder to get stable, safe housing.

Nationally, the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) data shows that women make up two-thirds of those  seeking help from a homelessness service and that there is an increasing trend of homelessness and housing insecurity among women.

The flow-on effect for children is obvious. In 2009-10 more than 84,000 children (1 in 60) accompanied a parent or guardian seeking help because of homelessness.

The Anglicare report calls for urgent further investment in the supply of public and social housing and provision of transitional housing services for people in crisis.

Mr Henfling said CatholicCare’s practical experience in support services across the Diocese of Parramatta reflected these findings. “People of all ages, genders, cultural backgrounds and personal circumstances can find themselves homeless or at risk of homelessness at some time in their life,” he said.

“The services and accommodation that are available to assist the growing number of homeless people in our community are stretched beyond capacity and many people are just unable to find the help they need to get back on their feet.

“As a community, it’s time for us to look at new, imaginative ways of addressing the problem of homelessness and housing insecurity.”

More details on the 8 November Community Forum on Homelessness is available here.

Tags: CatholicCare   Catherine Villa   Homelessness

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