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New housing project tackling older women homelessness wins industry award

Older single women in Queensland have an innovative resource to rely on with the recently recognised share house initiative, the Better Together Housing Project.

Fifty-five year old women and above are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia. [Source: Shutterstock].
Fifty-five year old women and above are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia. [Source: Shutterstock].

Better Together, funded by the Queensland Government and supported by community organisation Sundale and Coast2Bay Housing Group, won the Leading Innovation Award at the Australasian Housing Institute’s Queensland gala event earlier this month.

Helping independent women 55 years of age and over, the initiative finds shared accommodation for participants in the Sunshine Coast.

The program is different to flatmate finder initiatives since it supplies safe and secure accommodation while linking people together who are interested in sharing a home, not a house.

Fifty-five year old women and above are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia.

Gail Middleton, Manager - Housing and Community Engagement at Sundale and main coordinator of the project, is glad this Leading Innovation award will continue the momentum for the important initiative.

She says that the project isn’t crisis housing, it is for women who may not have extensive superannuation or savings ready to be used over their retirement.

“What we were focussed on was not necessarily women in crisis because we believe women, particularly older women, are quite resourceful. Many of them are planning ahead to avert the crisis anyway they can,” says Ms Middleton.

“When living alone, it means 60 percent of their pension will be gobbled up by rent before they have even turned on the electric lights.

“We have to normalise that sharing is not just for young people. We need to normalise both the psychological and economic benefits you can get from sharing.”

When women retire from the workforce, private rental properties can be extremely expensive for one person.

The project addresses loneliness problems which is common among the elderly. Older single women are able to have companionship through home sharing.

Single women can feel connected again, while also setting up a place of affordability and security.

Sundale Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Danielle Mackenzie, says, “Circumstance and social policy mean many women enter retirement without savings or adequate levels of superannuation to supplement their pension.

“The Better Together Housing Project is helping solve this problem by linking women through a web-based platform, and cultivating these new relationships via regular catch ups.

“Already 73 women are participating in the initiative, with plans in place to grow the home sharing concept across the Sunshine Coast.”

With limited resources, the project has found ways to make it a success through feedback from participating women.

The project was launched over 12 months ago and had great interest from women within the Sunshine Coast.

Ms Middleton says the project won’t become a nationwide organisation, however, they are keen to get other organisations to set up similar frameworks.

The co-design model has worked well with participating women, who want to have a say in who they decide to share a home with.

“We don’t need to match them, they just need a secure environment so that they can reach out to other women that are safe and make their own decisions. It is an art of compromise and it isn’t a quick fix solution,” says Ms Middleton.

“[This award] has given us the motivation to keep going and keep improving on the product we have. It’s great to have the two organisations involved working together to find a solution, which is about improving the quality of life for women on the Sunshine Coast.”

The initiative also has regular catch ups and morning teas for the participating women to create another community within the service and have an extra support base for older women who are struggling.

The Better Together Housing Project will now head onto the Australasian Housing Institute national award gala dinner in August.

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