Greater response needed to support aged homeless in Sydney

Sydney has nearly twice as many homeless people as Melbourne and NSW has the highest number in Australia, but there is only a third the number of aged care homes for older, homeless men and women in Sydney.

With older people comprising about 16 per cent of those who are homeless in NSW – a proportion expected to grow with an ageing population – leading aged care provider, HammondCare has highlighted the disparity between cities, during Homelessness Prevention Week (1-7 August).

The latest Melbourne City Street Count (June 2016) shows 247 people experiencing homelessness in inner city Melbourne – a 74 per cent increase over the past two years. This compares to 486 people experiencing homelessness in the City of Sydney, according to its recent Street Count (Feb 2016) – 15 per cent aged over 55 years.

HammondCare’s Head of Health and Hospitals, Stewart James said despite the Sydney region having nearly double the number of aged homeless, there were significantly fewer aged care beds in Sydney, compared to Melbourne, provided specifically for homeless people and those at risk of homelessness.

“The former Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness found in 2013 that there were 10 residential aged care services dedicated to supporting older homeless people in Melbourne, compared to just three in Sydney*,” Mr James said. “Added to this, aged homelessness has been identified as one of the fastest growing areas, particularly for older women – highlighting the critical need for this type of service.

Good work occurring, more needed

“We know many groups such as City of Sydney Council, are working hard to address the homelessness issue in inner Sydney, and among other things has provided a grant to support our proposed Darlinghurst aged care home for older homeless people (subject to development approval).

“But still a greater response is needed from government and community sectors to provide safe and affordable housing options for older women, and more residential aged care services for older, homeless people are needed in inner Sydney.

“Research shows that people in this group are highly independent, tend to be disengaged with services and need time to build a relationship of trust. At the same time they often have complex health needs and require more than just accommodation.”

Mr James said if you are older and homeless in Melbourne, thanks to the great work of organisations such as Wintringham, you have a reasonable prospect of being cared for and finding long-term accommodation.

“But, as the figures show, if you are in Sydney, there is just not enough long-term, accommodation for homeless people, particularly for women. That’s why we are seeking to build our homeless residential aged care service in Darlinghurst and are also actively seeking other sites,” Mr James said.

Help us change this disparity by supporting our Darlinghurst aged care home for older people experiencing homelessness. 
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*Based on number of aged care facilities that receive homelessness viability supplement. Living Longer Living Better Senate Committee Report 2013