OLDER single women are the fastest growing group of people experiencing housing stress and homelessness, according to a new report.
And women in Bendigo are not immune, with service providers identifying a need for additional accommodation suitable for the demographic.
It comes as the City of Greater Bendigo considers its role in social and affordable housing, dedicating a two-hour forum to the topic.
In Australia, women over the age of 50 are at greater risk of financial and housing insecurity than men of the same age.
Retiring into poverty: A national plan for change outlines many reasons why, from a lack of income and superannuation during womens lifetimes to unaffordable housing.
An estimated 6866 older women in Australia were experiencing homelessness on the night of the 2016 census 31 per cent more than in 2011.
The root cause of all homelessness is poverty, the report states.
Older women are more likely to be living in poverty than older men due to a lifetime of discrimination that included unpaid or under paid work.
The report found that older women were marginalised in the private rental market, social and affordable housing markets, and in the homelessness services sector.
Older women will often not get access to priority social housing as they are usually homeless due to their low incomes, not because of having complex needs, it said.
DOCUMENT: Retiring into poverty report
Annie North chief executive Julie Oberin said there was a tendency for service providers to want to give older single women bedsits: And theres a lack of bedsits.
They often miss out and end up on waiting lists, she said.
She said creating more social and affordable housing targeting women in Bendigo would not only meet the needs of those in inappropriate, tenuous, or even dangerous housing situations, but free up beds in refuges.
Ms Oberin said women and children were forced to stay longer in womens refuges and crisis accommodation due to a lack of affordable and appropriate social housing.
The government has made some moves to help alleviate that, she said.
More resources had been allocated to rapid rehousing in Bendigo, focusing on women experiencing violence and freeing up refuge beds.
Ms Oberin said Annie North, Haven; Home, Safe and the Centre for Non-Violence had been working together to make use of the new properties and had been quickly able to put women into those houses.
Theres just not enough of them, she said.
Bendigo-based service Haven; Home, Safe provided 382 people with housing-related assistance in August.
Women accounted for 122 clients, and there were 98 men.
The intake staff have noticed there are more clients presenting who have a disability and are finding it difficult to access housing, Haven; Home, Safes Rachel Gellatly said.
Anecdotally, there appears to be more clients presenting who have both mental health and intellectual disability, hence the dual diagnosis can contribute to difficulties in receiving appropriate services.
Ms Gellatly said the majority of last months clients 141 people were receiving Newstart allowances.
Often the barrier to accessing and sustaining housing for this group is due to affordability issues, she said.
She said 113 clients were on a disability support pension.
This group often has support needs accompanying affordability issues which attribute to difficulties accessing and maintaining housing, Ms Gellatly said.
Haven has established a 17-apartment housing development in Geelong especially for single women aged 40 and over in recognition of the growing cohort.
The City of Greater Bendigo last week staged a forum to inform its development of a social and affordable housing and living strategy.
At the event, the council said it was exploring opportunities to utilise unused or underutilised properties near the Bendigo CBD to create social and affordable housing.
The citys regional sustainable development manager, Trevor Budge, said a project to re-imagine the Bendigo suburb of Golden Square would start in the next few months.
The council is hopeful re-purposing land and properties could create opportunities to house 2000 3000 more people in the area.
It is also exploring opportunities to generate funding for housing projects, citing potential benefits of a pumped hydro electricity proposal for Bendigos mines.
For Greater Bendigo to remain a liveable and accessible regional city, we need to ensure a variety of housing types, including for people on low incomes, Mr Budge said.
The city is expected to release a discussion paper later this year.
A national housing and homelessness strategy and a federal government strategy to address the financial insecurity of older women were key recommendations of the Retiring into poverty report.
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