ON May 1 the St Vincent de Paul Society launches its 2016 Winter Appeal in a bid to see the community ‘Rethink Homelessness’ this winter in the face of rising demand.
In Australia, women are experiencing homelessness at rates more than double those of women in the United Kingdom, statistics the Society’s chief executive Mark Fitzpatrick called “shocking” during the launch of the appeal.
Women and girls make up 59 per cent of homelessness services clients at the Society, and 36 per cent of these women have been affected by domestic and family violence.
Mr Fitzpatrick said the Society was working hard to meet the demand from women and children for support, and services to prevent or address homelessness.
“It is devastating that 59 per cent of Australians seeking help from homelessness services are women. That’s a significantly higher rate than the UK’s 26 per cent and the USA’s 38 per cent,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
“What is even more chilling is the fact that the fastest growing demographic experiencing homelessness is women over 55. This totally dispels the myth that homelessness only affects younger men.
“I would ask people to think; would you feel it is acceptable to have your grandmother, mother or sister living in their car with nowhere to go?”
Mr Fitzpatrick said middle-aged women were often experiencing homelessness and disadvantage for the first time.
“We are hearing more and more stories from women over 50 who, after many years of loyal service, are made redundant or have faced the breakdown of the family unit and can no longer afford to pay high housing costs,” he said.
“These women are suddenly plunged into circumstances they thought were unimaginable; unable to find work or a home, they are forced to live off their life savings until they run dry. Then, in these desperate circumstances, they approach us for help and we work hard to prevent their homelessness and help them create a better future.”
In the 2014-15 financial year the Society assisted 40,000 people and provided $3 million worth of material assistance.
“Unfortunately this year Vinnies has seen demand exceed what we have expected by nearly 15 per cent,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
“It is heart-breaking that the numbers we serve are increasing every year and that is why we rely on the generosity of the community. Without their compassion and financial contribution during our Winter Appeal we would not be able to help men, women and children stay warm, fed and in a safe place.”