Report urges support for homeless women

A NEW report has urged GPs and hospitals to better support the growing number of older women facing homelessness, in the lead-up to Fremantle’s Long Table Dinner.

Organised by St Pat’s and The National Hotel, the annual dinner will raise funds for people that are experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness or in need.

Older women are the fastest growing group among the homeless in Australia, with a 31 per cent increase between 2011 and 2016, according to a new report in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

Unique needs

Hospitals and GPs need to be better at identifying homelessness in women; stressing the need for policies and integrated services to support their unique needs, states the report.

It also identifies the cost of medication as a significant issue, particularly if women have several prescriptions.   

Homeless 56-year-old Stella says “there’s a lot of money that goes toward medications…and it keeps building up, every time I see the rheumatologist, there’s add on, add on.”

The report found older homeless women are particularly misunderstood and have a lack of knowledge on how to access housing and supportive services, including healthcare. 

Gina, 51, says “we need more services designed for women that have women there, so they feel safe.”

Tanya, 52, says that finding permanent accommodation helps to transition back into the world again: “It’s just getting you back into society.”

St Pat’s CEO Michael Piu says Covid had a significant impact on housing, with many West Australian’s returning from overseas to find the tightest rental market in 40 years.  

“The private rental vacancy rate has fallen well below one per cent and rents have risen significantly,” he notes.   

According to Shelter WA, the WA housing crisis accounts for 25 per cent of people seeking assistance from specialist housing services. 

It is estimated more than 9000 West Australians experience homelessness every night with 1083 sleeping rough, and 1208 under twelve years of age.

Mr Piu said Fremantle businesses had a long history of supporting St Pat’s. 

Some of the funds raised will go towards the My Home housing project in North Freo, with the government and philanthropic organisations working to deliver longer-term housing.

by EVA PONDEVIE

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