WOMEN in Australia experience homelessness at more than double the rate of women in the UK, according to St Vincent de Paul Society WA chief executive Mark Fitzpatrick.
The Belmont-based organisation launched the 2016 winter appeal this month, which urges people to ‘rethink homelessness’.
Mr Fitzpatrick said the homelessness in women statistics was shocking and Vinnies was working hard to meet 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,” he 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.”
Mr Fitzpatrick said he wanted people to think how they would feel if their grandmother, mother or sister was homeless.
“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.”
Females make up 59 per cent of homelessness services clients, with 36 per cent of these women affected by domestic or family violence.
In the 2014-15 financial year, St Vincent de Paul assisted 40,000 people and provided $3 million worth of material assistance.
“As a result of the downturn in the economy, unfortunately this year Vinnies has seen demand exceed what we have expected by nearly 15 per cent,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
“It is heartbreaking that the numbers we serve are increasing every year and that is why we rely on the generosity of the community.”