Our ‘invisible’ shame: Huge problem for women over 55

Queensland is facing a surge in older women forced into homelessness with one in five homeless now aged 55 and over and tens of thousands of others facing housing stress.

Mission Australia said there has been a 65 per cent increase in homelessness for older Queensland women aged between 65 and 74 and that the current rental squeeze was leaving even more people worried about keeping a roof over their head.

Mission Australia's Fiona Terry said she had never seen such a tight rental market in Brisbane and said those most at risk of being turfed out were the older women reaching out to her at a growing rate.

"Their relationship may have ended, they're in a carer's role, experiencing health issues or they've lost their job or had their hours reduced, amplified by COVID-19," Ms Terry said.

"Often confronted with financial stress, such as mortgage repayments or challenges with lease agreements, they're staying with friends, family or in their cars."

Ms Terry said many of the women at risk had limited superannuation, were ineligible for aged care or were finding it hard to regain employment due to ageism.

"We know many of these women are shocked to find themselves in this situation and sadly feel a great sense of shame or denial," she said.

"These are women we all know - they could be your peers, grandmother, mother, sister, aunt or a friend."

The shame felt by a lot of women became a roadblock for them in asking for help.

Councillor Vicki Howard, Fiona Terry, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Janet Maher meet at Roma House.
Councillor Vicki Howard, Fiona Terry, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Janet Maher meet at Roma House.

Mission Australia has now teamed with the Brisbane City Council to create The Supporting Women Over 55 project, which aims to connect women who don't have secure housing with services that offer financial, emotional and mental health support.

Ms Terry said they were often "invisible" to services and wouldn't attend boarding houses as much as other demographics out of fear for their safety.

She said the new program would help her reach more women and provide them with help.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the three-year program was funded through an unexpected windfall in provisions for the council's staff superannuation.

He said a $3 million surplus from the council previously putting aside funds in an old superannuation scheme.

"Normally that would just go into consolidated revenue and we would upgrade a park or something but we thought specifically we would put this into the Pathways Out of

The Older Women Project is available to women living in the Brisbane City Council area aged 55 and over and will run until 2022.

Those wishing to take part in the program are encouraged to contact Mission Australia's Fiona Terry on 0418 858 818 or Terryf@missionaustralia.com.au.


Originally published as Our 'invisible' shame: Huge problem for women over 55