Living on the edge of homelessness

Hopes for a secure home wane after years on the public housing waiting list


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The housing system is failing older Australians says Jeff Fiedler from Ageing on the Edge.

The housing system is failing older Australians says Jeff Fiedler from Ageing on the Edge.

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Rent comes before food, heating, cooling and medical needs for many older Queenslanders.

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AN ELDERLY Queensland woman, who had been on the public housing waiting list for a very long time, was finally offered a home - 500 kilometers away from where she lived and where she knew no one.

Her story is just one of the many instances of how the public housing system is failing older people, leaving them paying high private rents at the expense of the other necessities of life.

High priority applicants are still waiting years for their name to reach the top of the housing waiting list - some people have been told they might wait 10 to 20 years for a house. Others have given up hope and don't bother reapplying when the paperwork arrives.... year after year.

These are some of the stories which older persons housing advocate Jeff Fielder has heard recently as the Housing for the Aged Action Group and University of Adelaide take their Ageing on the Edge research to the sunshine state.

Mr Fiedler recounted a story of an elderly woman who was paying a high private rent and had to go from her home in Caboolture to Logan for medical treatment. She had no money to replace the worn tires on her car and was worried about how would she get to her medical appointments.

He said many people were surviving on the age pension or worse Newstart and were forced to pay expensive private rents because of a lack of public housing.

"It's barely living. They're going without food, not using heating, or cooling and compromising on lighting.

"One woman told me she's worked in low paid jobs all her life. One worked as a teacher's aid, another as an aged care worker. Their wages were low."

Mr Fielder said many people were living in extreme housing stress with people aged over 75 years paying more than half of their pension in rent.

Many were one crisis, such as a rent increase, away from homelessness.

These people feel they have no control over their destiny. Many are also living in places which are not adaptable for them as they age - for example units on upper floors.

He said housing stress led to the health of older people declining faster, so they ended up in hospital and then needed to go into age care sooner.

Mr Fielder is hoping to hear from more Queenslanders. To tell your housing story contact Ageing on the Edge: 03-9654-7389 or email jeff.fiedler@oldertenants.org.au

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