HOMELESS IN BEACHMERE

Di Hill

SOSEW is not a lackadaisical sewing club. It is an organisation started by Di Hill in an attempt to address the needs of the growing number of Solo Senior Women (SOSEW) over 55 who, through no fault of their own, have become the fastest growing homeless population in Australia. Di was a Beachmere resident until rising rents changed her circumstances. Unable to afford her unit any longer, she bought and moved into a camper-van with her limited finances.

This story is an update about what Di has been up to since her appearance on the SBS Insight series, portraying homeless women over 55 who have been left by the wayside in our communities.

But first let’s look at some of the statistics published by Mangrove Housing:

  • One in seven people experiencing homelessness in Australia are over 55 years old.

  • More than 40,000 women aged over 65 are doing it tough and at risk of becoming homeless. Add those over 55 especially as retirement age becomes more elusive and housing affordability skyrockets.

  • Women over 55 have more than 40% less superannuation (if any at all) than their male counterparts due to an era of restricted workforce participation, bearing children, significant wage disparity and roles of caring and fostering allowances paid by the government not having a super component.

  • These figures are set to more than double by 2036.

I caught up with Di at her current housesit on Bribie Island. Many homeless women live in their cars or vans, sleep on friends and family’s couches and utilise house-sitting as short term free accommodation in return for caring for homes, gardens and pets. I met many of these ladies while I travelled around Australia and Tasmania. Mostly they were living in free camps and national parks as they were unable to access safe affordable rental accommodation and their utility and water bills had also become untenable.

As her photo shows, Di does not look like the stereotypical homeless person. She is well dressed, articulate and meets with many politicians, government housing departments and other interested parties in her quest to assist older women to obtain secure, safe, affordable housing.

In February, while looking into co-housing projects she was invited to Barnet in London, where she stayed at a women’s housing co-operative named New Ground. It was built to meet the needs of the over 55 solo female demographic. Di was amazed at the fantastic apartments and facilities. The women were faced with extreme hurdles from council and builders but managed to overcome the obstacles and achieved a working cooperative that has met their housing, safety and social needs.

This is what Di is looking to achieve in Queensland, but there has been no money allocated to this issue in local, state or federal budgets again. Although there is a $51million investment in women’s services and strategies to address disadvantage.

We did have a laugh as she recalled her latest visit to a politician. He had a display showing where council had spent their latest funding. It was allocated to several sports ground facility upgrades and various men’s sheds in the area. When asked what spending had been allocated to female groups in his electorate, he thought a moment, then stated they had upgraded a women’s toilet at the sports ground.

Women’s homelessness is sadly a growing phenomenon due to inadequate finances, divorce, abuse, mental health issues and rising rents. If you can contribute time, knowledge or become a beneficiary for this proposed co-housing project, please contact SOSEW at aussidi@gmail.com

All are welcome to attend the next SOSEW meeting, held at the Beachmere Beach Shak café on Wednesday 8 August at 9.30 am.

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