Women over the age of 55 are the fastest growing demographic of homeless people in the country. But a new pilot program and partnership between two established Sunshine Coast not-for-profit organisations is working to change that.
Coast2Bay Housing Group and aged-care provider Sundale have joined forces to create the Better Together project, a shared housing initiative that connects like-minded older women together with the aim of sharing accommodation to lighten the financial burden of costs of living as well as combat social isolation.
The project was launched last week and will be free for people to use until at least the end of 2018 thanks to a state government age-friendly grant.
Coast2Bay Housing Group operations manager Lee Banfield says there are a number of reasons why women over 55 are finding themselves increasingly at risk of homelessness.
“Women statistically have lower superannuation to live off and another thing that’s really changed in our world in the last 10 years is that more people are spending their working life not having their mortgage paid out,” she says.
“The number of people ending that time with some sort of mortgage left is on the increase and this can be fine if you are on two incomes, but if you lose your partner, you are financially in a much more difficult position.
“Another of our main goals is to promote social inclusion. Many of these women talk about feeling isolated and while sharing a house doesn’t mean you have to be instantly involved in each other’s lives, it can reduce the costs of living and provide some companionship.
“Maybe if you’ve got a pet, you can come to an agreement where if you go away that person can look after it, so there are many more benefits to sharing accommodation.”
Sundale housing and community engagement manager Gail Middleton has been leading the project and the two organisations have reached out to many community groups and other not-for-profits to begin building a network of suitable women to take advantage of the new service.
Women who have a home they would like to share or those who are seeking share accommodation simply answer a questionnaire covering their interests and the type of accommodation and housemate they were looking for.
The applicants are then police checked and go through the usual processes that tenants undergo before taking up a lease agreement.
Once they are approved, a profile is then created for them and placed on the Better Together website, where they can be contacted by other women in the program if they find a match.
Ms Banfield says they are also interested in hearing from property investors who might be interested in offering their properties to be tenanted by women in the program.
“It’s a pretty competitive rental market and I would think this cohort of people would be an attractive proposition for an owner,” she says.
“Many of these women are looking for longer term leases of two to three years to provide them with that security.”
Better Together will continue to evolve with ongoing focus groups planned in the near future.
Those wanting to find out more about the project and how they can share their input can connect with the team at the free I Age Well Senior Lifestyle Expo at the Lake Kawana Community Centre on June 15 from 10am to 4pm or visit bettertogetherhousing.com.au.