The Lady Musgrave Trust has announced a bold new initiative in response to the alarming increase in older women facing homelessness.
The Queensland charity — dedicated to sheltering vulnerable women and their children — has launched the Ending Homelessness for Older Women project.
With generous support from the Cromwell Property Group Foundation, the project will seek to establish a centralised ‘one-stop shop’ for at-risk and homeless women over 50, pooling together all the resources that are available to them in one handy guide.
At least 12,000 copies of the guide will be published and distributed to mature-aged women who are at risk of homelessness or already homeless, providing them with information about vital and life-saving services.
Karen Lyon Reid, the Chief Executive Officer of The Lady Musgrave Trust, said that women aged over 50 are the fastest growing group of people at risk of homelessness in Australia.
“The ABS Census Data identified a 31 per cent increase in older women’s homelessness over 5 years,” Ms Lyon Reid said.
“That’s an alarming increase in women facing homelessness and we need to address these statistics.”
While the statistics are confronting, Ms Lyon Reid said the problem may actually be worse than it appears.
“This demographic is often invisible, and the statistics don’t tell the full story,” she said.
“Many of these women end up staying with friends, in motels, or sleeping rough in their cars — they’re very private people and they feel ashamed about their circumstances, so it’s hard to capture those people in the Census.”
Ms Lyon Reid said a perfect storm of factors have contributed to the increase in the number of older women facing homelessness, including relationship breakdowns, domestic violence, pay and superannuation inequity, and a reluctance and lack of awareness about how to seek support.
“Older women experiencing homelessness for the first time often don’t know where to turn,” she said.
“The resources intended to help them are spread out all over the place at the moment, and these women don’t know where to find it.
“The Ending Homelessness for Older Women project will empower older women with information about how to help themselves out of a difficult situation.”
The Lady Musgrave Trust is currently communicating with peak bodies and charitable organisations and undertaking extensive research to put together the guide.
“The Lady Musgrave Trust has been doing this for a long time, and we know that the right way to tackle these problems is not in isolation — it’s to create a network and leverage everybody’s knowledge,” she said.
The Ending Homelessness for Older Women project will also include an accommodation pilot program in Ipswich, utilising the Trust’s property portfolio to co-locate older women with younger women, fostering mutual learning and cross-generational mentoring.
The project’s findings will be presented at The Lady Musgrave Trust’s 12th Annual Forum for Women and Homelessness in August 2020.
“The Trust is turning 135 years old next year,” Ms Lyon Reid said, “and there’s no better way for us to commemorate this milestone than by delivering this very important project.”
Ms Lyon Reid said The Lady Musgrave Trust — which provides about 8,000 bed nights of safe accommodation for vulnerable women and their children each year — is looking forward to collaborating with like-minded organisations like the Zonta Club of Brisbane on this project. The Trust relies on support from many individuals, companies and organisations to support its work.
“There are significant costs involved in this project, and the more the public and the business community gets behind it and supports it, the more we’ll be able to do for these older homeless and at-risk women,” she said.
Donate to The Lady Musgrave Trust at ladymusgravetrust.org.au/make-a-donation