Older women are facing homelessness at alarming rates. Here’s how you can help.

Women are often socialised to hide their emotions. But as women aged 55+ now make up the fastest-growing cohort of people experiencing homelessness in Australia, we see why they’re upset. We are, too, which is why our Pathways to Independence program specifically supports this underserviced group.  

People sometimes ask us why we focus only on women with this program. It’s because housing is a feminist issue. Part of our purpose at YWCA is to make women’s housing our priority for gender equity in Australia. This doesn’t mean that we don’t care about men experiencing homelessness, it simply means that gendered support services like Pathways to Independence need to exist to create a more equitable world.  

When we talk about equity, it’s an important distinction. Equity recognises the unique needs and circumstances which need to be considered to bring about equality. As an evolving intersectional feminist organisation, we know we’re the right people to provide this service – we can allocate the right resources, supports and opportunities to help older women reach an equal outcome… with a little help from our supporters, of course! 

The last thing you or your loved one would want upon reaching the age of 50 is to lose the security and safety of your home. A home should be both your sanctuary and shelter, but this sadly isn’t a reality for many older women today. 

Shockingly, domestic violence is a factor in as many as 86 per cent of cases involving women in our Pathways to Independence program. This gender-based violence needs a gender-responsive approach. This, and many other factors, can lead to trauma, as well as continued physical and mental health challenges.  

Plenty of women who come to us through our Pathways to Independence program have also faced discrimination, including ageism, which can affect their ability to earn money to help them get back on their feet.

Older women may also be grieving the death of an income-earning partner – or be experiencing relationship breakdown or divorce. Women in this age group often haven’t had the same opportunities as men to work, often due to bearing unequal responsibility for raising children. This can also mean that they have insufficient savings or superannuation balances.   

There is also widespread financial illiteracy across the board, as well as a lack of knowledge of support systems. This is particularly true in the case of women who’ve worked all their lives, only to now be dealing with the horrific nature of homelessness and inexperience in navigating the welfare system. And, don’t forget, there’s also a shocking lack of affordable housing in Australia. 

There are so many barriers faced every day by ordinary women. So, the question is – are you upset, too?

Don’t worry, we’re right there with you. But all is not lost. There is hope, and a way you can help older women to rebuild their lives and find safety. If you can, we’re asking you to please consider supporting the Pathways to Independence campaign with an affordable donation. 

Your support helps us to make a huge difference. We can do something with every single dollar of your generosity. For example, just $50 can provide an emergency basics pack for women we support into accommodation. It will help her keep her dignity with things like clean underwear, a change of clothes and toiletries. 

No matter what you can spare, donations of more than $2 are tax-deductible. Simply claim it in your tax return for 2021 at the end of the financial year after June 30.  

We know it’s a big ask. Please know that your generosity – no matter how much you can spare – will make a meaningful difference.   

If you’re currently not in a place to financially contribute, we understand. Please consider sharing our campaign to get the word out about this vital program – lots of people simply don’t realise how bad the situation is right now for older women. 

With your help, we can help restore a sense of peace and safety to the women we support and prevent them from becoming entrenched in the vicious cycle of homelessness.   

Thank you for your compassion. 

YWCA Australia wishes to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we work, live and play and pay our respects to Elders past and present. We recognise First Nations people as the custodians of the lands, seas and skies, with more than 60,000 years of wisdom, connection and relationship in caring for Country.

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