Elderly, sick long-term residents struggling most

High stakes: Just Home Margaret River's latest report paints a sobering picture of the region's homelessness issue, revealing that most of those currently seeking assistance are older, long-term residents struggling to find affordable housing or facing significant health issues. Photo: Shutterstock.
High stakes: Just Home Margaret River's latest report paints a sobering picture of the region's homelessness issue, revealing that most of those currently seeking assistance are older, long-term residents struggling to find affordable housing or facing significant health issues. Photo: Shutterstock.

Housing justice organisation Just Home Margaret River has released its latest report, revealing that most of those currently seeking assistance are older, long-term residents struggling to find affordable housing or facing significant health issues.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council, which has a three-year partnership with the organisation, is expected to endorse the Housing Advocacy Project report at a meeting this afternoon, September 11.

According to Just Home housing officer Katie Gray, the organisation had 17 new clients between April and June 30, half of which were over the age of 46.

Of the 75 clients that have sought assistance since the project began in 2017, Ms Gray said one-quarter had been over the age of 60, with many not having foreseen the increase in rental prices and a number of pensioners being priced out all together.

"It's clearly older people that are struggling with housing," she said.

"When you think of the population here, that [one-quarter] is a huge chunk of people.

"The biggest cause for homelessness is financial stress, particularly if you're on the pension or on Newstart.

"Here, with tourism and holiday rentals, it's near impossible to get a property under $300 per week.

"People simply weren't budgeting for rents of $350 in their retirement plan.

"It also creates that concern for those around 45 years of age, that their superannuation and planning for retirement often isn't enough to actually provide housing."

It is understood that there are only 14 places publicly funded for those over the age of 60 and, with 40 people on the public waiting list just last year, the current wait time is approximately 10 years.

The impact of rising rental prices on the elderly is backed by this year's Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot, which found that 660,000 people on the Aged Pension do not own a home and many are living in severe housing stress.

Ms Gray said a significant portion of clients had experienced a life-changing event within the last 12 months, including loss of employment, family breakdown, an accident or a health issue.

Of the organisation's clients, up to 35 per cent have health problems and 62 per cent have mental health issues, something Ms Gray said came with the anxiety of wondering where they would get their next meal.

In fact, three were recently discharged from serious mental health treatment, two of which are currently undergoing chemotherapy.

People simply weren't budgeting for rents of $350 in their retirement plan.

According to Just Home housing officer Katie Gray.

With just 12 months worth of funding left for the program, Ms Gray said the organisation would lobby for it to continue while pushing for social housing in the region.

"We're certainly looking where we'll get funding and how we'll continue to run the program," she said.

"I think there is a demand for the program long term and that homelessness is only going to increase at this rate, with rent still going up and an aging population.

"For some people, probably about 70 per cent of our clientele, it's simply a financial issue, but that's probably not the kind of person I need to work with much.

"They haven't yet fallen into homelessness. Once you have, it's a lot harder to get back.

"Quite often, when you've fallen out of the system, it becomes quite difficult to the [identification] points back up. We help with housing applications, references.

"I think it's just those really practical steps of walking alongside someone to work through each issue.

"There doesn't seem to be any state planning that I'm aware of for social housing in the area.

"That's why we're lobbying for it."

The shire's acting Corporate and Community Services director Heather Auld said the local government was working with Just Home to identify social housing projects which could potentially be pursued with not-for-profit providers.

This story Elderly, sick long-term residents struggling most first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.