Research on the phenomenon of Later Life Homelessness connects the loss of housing with a major life event. A major life event can act as a catalyst for homelessness.
These events can include:
- relationship breakdown
- the death of a spouse/partner
- the onset or experience of a significant episode of physical health needs
Common traits of those facing Later Life Homelessness include:
- a history of treated and untreated mental illness
- physical health support needs
- inability to manage personal issues
- development of coping strategies to mask problems (substance abuse, problem gambling etc)
- a history of long employment history with single employer
- redundant skills for contemporary workplaces
- experienced a recent relationship breakdown (either through divorce/separation or death)
- recently experienced an episode of family violence
- often residing in lowquality private rental accommodation (bottom end of the private rental market)
- living frugally for a significant period of time
- extensive experience of living alone
- little to no experience with homelessness or welfare services
- wariness towards using social services due to social stigma.
What are the trigger points that can act as the catalyst for a crisis?
- onset of mental illness or significant episode of mental illness
- onset of physical health need or ongoing experience of chronic health problems
- the 'pressure cooker effect' - feeling as though all the stresses in their life can no longer be managed
- family breakdown or family violence
- move from wages to Centrelink benefits.
HomeConnect has identified that the risk of homelessness is linked to the recent loss of employment. For approximately 90 per cent of clients the loss of employment is directly related to a recent major life event and is central to a change in circumstances. In working to develop effective support interventions for this group, it is essential to understand and map out common experiences. These clients share common immediate needs in order to address their situations:
- stabilise their current housing or to find more appropriate housing
- re-enter the labour market
- address any unmet physical or mental health support needs.
Working towards these goals often occurs simultaneously and so requires a cohesive and integrated approach.
(Chloe Persing, Manager, HomeConnect, VincentCare)