Older women 'ashamed' to ask for help until it's too late
NEW data by Northern Rivers researchers has found older women are a hidden element of the homeless population and prefer not to ask for assistance until their situation becomes dire.
Southern Cross University researchers Dr Sandy Darab and Dr Yvonne Hartman co-wrote The housing pathways of single older non-home owning women in a rural region of Australia, published in the Journal of Rural Studies.
Dr Darab said unlike men, older women tend to wait until they really need help before they ask.
We found the women would not speak up until they were in dire circumstances," she said.
"The women said they felt ashamed they did not have roof over their head and did not want to come to anyone attention until then."
The researchers found the women were keen to share their experiences.
"When we announced we were going to conduct this reclaim we were contacted by over 100 women," she said.
"We ended up focussing on 47 women and they were very clear in what they wanted as opposed to being told by bureaucrats how they should live."
Dr Hartman said as the women did not own a home and lived in wide variety of circumstances paying rent on some form of accommodation, they had been invisible until the tight rental market forced them into the spotlight.
She said nearly all were living on low incomes.
"We feel women's work and family roles in the last century left them economically disadvantaged and most had interrupted employment histories, lower status and lower-paid jobs than men," she said.
"Their housing ranged from dingy hotel rooms and makeshift sheds or shacks to run-down flats or housing in regional towns (and) only a few lived in reasonable circumstances, including community housing."
The women interviewed had very clear ideas about what sort of housing would suit them as they age and they said stability and security of tenure were priorities.
She said their shared desire for stability and security of tenure is understandable, given most had very disrupted housing histories and many worried about what would happen to them.
"The women also expressed a strong desire for privacy and independence, which many of them called their own space', as they wanted to come and go as they please," she said.
"Many women linked their desire for security, privacy and independence to their age and their gender, and in contract other research on this group in cities, our participants insisted they did not wish to share housing with other women."
Dr Hartman said another uprising find was nearly all the women wanted some sort of garden, no matter how small.
"They said this was almost as important as their need for security and independence," she said.
"And the women wanted to have space to accommodate their grandchildren and pets, in fact a few women even said they would rather be homeless that give up their pet, such was their attachment."
Dr Darab said they have been investigating older women and housing since 2010.
"The aha! moment for this research was in 2010 then there was a focus on homelessnesses and the university put out a call for people to engage in homeless research," she said.
"So Yvonne and I decided to look at single older women and housing issues and we held a housing forum in Lismore for women in 2011 in the town hall, with the mayor in the chair and invited housing providers anyone interested and we had a full house. That's when we really knew we had a population of people struggling with this issue."