“I never thought I’d end up homeless on the street in my 70s. Now I know, if it could happen to me, it could happen to any older woman.”
At the age of 70 Joan* found herself homeless soon after she lost her husband. Joan’s eldest daughter stole all her savings, and transferred the house into her own name, after her beloved husband of 50 years died.
“I’d lost my husband, I’d lost my home, I’d lost my family. I mean, I had nothing to live for. I didn’t even have a pension.”, said Joan.
Like Joan many older Australian women face homelessness because of financial insecurity, family and domestic violence. Women often have to take time off work to look after their families, and this time off is usually unpaid. So, when they retire, women have less money to live on than men. If they separate, divorce, or become a widow, they’re more vulnerable. That’s why financial insecurity is one of the main reasons women become homeless in Australia.
“Thanks to Vinnies, I was placed in a crisis accommodation and met volunteer Jess and Maria. First stop Maria organised for me to go to Centrelink to sort out my finances. Then Jess helped me organise a new home. Today, I’ve got a beautiful home I never thought I’d have again.”, said Joan.
John Feint, President of St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn, “The most recent census data revealed that incidence of all forms of homelessness has remained stubbornly high in our region and increased a significant portion being women.”
“Between September 2022 and February 2023, 68% of people who called the Vinnies Emergency Helpline identified as female and was likely to be within the age cohort of 25-49 years (62%) and 50-64 years (23%).”, said John.
These alarming numbers call for an urgent call to action. This Winter we are aiming to raise $400,000 to support women like Joan in the ACT and surrounding regions. The funds raised will be used to provide emergency accommodation so vulnerable older women have a safe place to sleep. Additionally, the funds will be used to provide urgent and practical support such as food, clothing, essential goods, rental payments, accommodation assistance, and medical costs to help prevent homelessness.
During last Winter, Vinnies volunteers were able to provide emergency assistance worth approximately $550,000 in ACT & surrounds through our emergency relief helpline in addition to the work of our specialist homelessness services. This was only possible because of the generosity of our community.
“We’re asking the Canberra region to support us again this year, which will enable us to continue this crucial support for those in need.”, said John.
*We use a different name and image to protect the privacy of the people we support.