For most of us, having a roof over our heads, a full fridge and access to a shower is a given, but unfortunately it is something many people go without. These basic needs shouldn’t be a luxury. Everyone deserves safe and secure housing, no matter their age, demographic or financial status.
Sadly, elderly people are one of the fastest growing cohorts within the homeless population. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics it is estimated more than 9,000 people sleep rough in Western Australia each night and people aged 55 years and above account for 16 per cent of the total homeless population in Australia. The number of people aged 55+ experiencing homelessness has steadily increased over the past 10 years, and with the rising cost of living we can assume this increase will again be reflected when the 2021 Census data is released later this year.
The number of West Australians unable to access aged care services is also staggering and the impact of COVID-19 and halt on the development of new facilities due to the rising cost of construction has drastically exacerbated the problem.
Workforce shortages in aged care have also heightened the issue, with more than 340 elderly people being denied access to residential aged care in WA due to workforce shortages in the last year alone.
It’s also worth noting that it can take 2-3 months between being assessed for aged care and finding a suitable home in an aged care facility. Add the impact of an ageing population and we have a crisis on our hands that needs urgent attention.
Homelessness is a complex issue with a broad range of contributing factors, but we can all play a part in helping to break the cycle, and organisations like ours have a unique opportunity to help address the issue of homelessness amongst our aging population.
So, to support those who are in greatest need in our community, Southern Cross Care (WA) has recently opened vacancies at our residential aged care facility Villa Pelletier in West Leederville to accommodate homeless people aged 65 and over who have health needs.
Referrals to Villa Pelletier are being made by social workers. Residents who meet the requirements when assessed by the Aged Care Assessment Team and have demonstrated insecure tenancy will be offered fully funded permanent residency in private single rooms. The initiative has been welcomed by social workers and homeless groups across the State, including staff at the Older Adult Mental Health Service who said the idea was much needed. Partner organisations in this space have said most hostel-style accommodation does not take “older adults” and Southern Cross Care (WA)’s initiative was a “wonderful and unique” way to fill a much-needed gap.
We currently have 23 residents who have been homed through the program and we are looking to expand this intake into the future.
One such resident is Donald. After the house he was living in in Kalgoorlie was demolished, he moved to Perth and initially lived in his car before having to sell it to purchase a mobility scooter. Watch Donald’s story below to see the positive impact we have had in his life since moving into Villa Pelletier.
Also, check out the media coverage around the new program here.