Causes of homelessness among older people in Melbourne, Australia

Objective: A comparative study of the causes of new episodes of homelessness among people aged 50 years and over has been undertaken in Australia, the United States and England. Semi-structured questionnaires were used to collect information on the circumstances and problems that contributed to homelessness. Methods: This paper presents the findings from Australia, where information was obtained from 125 older homeless people (aged 50+ years) and their key workers in Melbourne. All three participating nations followed identical research methodologies. Results: The factors most frequently reported by respondents as contributing to their homelessness were problems with people with whom they lived, followed by physical and mental ill-health and problems associated with the housing itself. The most frequently reported factors by case workers were problems with alcohol, followed by physical and mental health factors. Conclusions: This study demonstrates a significant under-utilisation of housing and support services among recently homeless older people and provides evidence that people who had previously been homeless appear to be more resigned to their homelessness than do those who had not experienced homelessness before. Significant issues relating to depression and gambling were also noted. The findings support the need for more targeted, specialised services to be developed or improved such that older homeless people can readily gain access to them and for improved collaboration or information exchange among housing providers and welfare agencies.

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Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health