The latest Census data reveals 54,000 women were experiencing homelessness on Census night in 2021, a surge of 10 per cent since 2016.
Michelle Phillips, CEO of YWCA Australia, said the figures were an urgent reminder of the need to improve women’s access to safe, secure and affordable housing.
“Australia is in the midst of a housing and cost of living crisis putting more women at risk of homelessness. It’s unacceptable in a country like Australia that women and their families do not have access to safe and secure homes. We can, and must, take action to change these statistics and give women a more positive future,” she said.
Michelle Phillips said ending women’s homelessness is possible if we address funding shortfalls for social and affordable housing and specialist homelessness services targeted at women and young women.
“To change these statistics, we need urgent action.
“We appreciate that the Federal Government want to fix the problem. However, the current commitments aren’t enough to address the challenges we face. We need specific commitments to build more social and affordable homes for women. These homes would provide women on low incomes with access to safe and secure housing, where they can find stability and plan for their future.”
“Women and their families who are without a home or struggling to keep a roof over their head rely on specialist homelessness services. These services offer women safe spaces and the opportunity to access personalised support, that’s tailored to their individual experiences. Current program funding for such initiatives don’t match current need and it is imperative that the shortfall be addressed in the next Federal Budget.”
Michelle Phillips emphasised there is a policy vacuum on the gendered drivers of homelessness.
“These statistics come off the back of a policy vacuum in housing and homelessness policy over the past decade. We must ensure women’s experiences are front and centre in government policy moving forward. We have a real opportunity with the National Housing and Homelessness Plan and Housing Australia Future Fund to make progress, but this requires ongoing momentum and continued commitment from all levels of government.”
The Census results revealed shocking statistics regarding the extent of homelessness for young women, showing a rise to 70 in every 10,000 from 68 in the previous Census. Michelle Phillips emphasised that solutions targeted at young women must be prioritised.
“As housing becomes less affordable increasing numbers of young women are facing homelessness, housing and services that cater to younger women’s specific needs must be prioritised. This means allocating specific funding to housing projects and services that are designed for young women.
“In the Northern Territory, which has the highest youth homelessness rates in the country, there’s been a doubling of the young women we are unable to help through our homelessness services. These services are a lifeline for young women and if they were expanded and received additional funding, we could ensure young women can access support for as long as they need it,” she said.
Family and domestic violence remains one of the leading drivers of homelessness for women.
“We must not forget the intersection between family and domestic violence and women’s experiences of homelessness. To reduce the number of women escaping violence with nowhere to go we must provide them with long-term affordable housing and support to rebuild their lives.”