Homelessness is a growing problem among older migrant communities in Australia, according to Jeff Fiedler, manager of the Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG).
“The numbers are not known but the largest increase in homelessness was for people living in overcrowded homes, and this is mainly experienced by CALD [culturally and linguistically diverse] groups,” Fiedler told The Indian Sun. “There are approximately 105,000 people who are homeless in Australia.”
The situation is being made worse by the fact people from diverse cultural backgrounds often have difficulty accessing support services for homelessness. Fielder sees it as “the biggest barrier,” to them being able to get help.
“Mainstream services are not accessible to CALD communities as they do not adequately address the language, cultural and political issues facing these communities,” he explained.
“Also, problems associated with Assurances of Support, where older people cannot receive an independent pension for 10 years, makes it difficult for people to find their own independent housing.”
HAAG is now working to prevent homelessness in these communities by breaking down the barriers and ensuring access to information and services, through a major project with the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV).
The 12-month project was launched by Victorian Minster for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott in April, and is being funded by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. It’s aimed at people over the age of 55 from CALD communities, living throughout Victoria.
ECCV Chairperson Eddie Micallef said links had already been made with communities that would play a vital role in the development of the project.
“Bilingual workers from the communities are currently being trained to provide presentations to older people in the communities,” Micallef said.
Through speaking with communities, they’ve also identified some of the issues older people from culturally diverse backgrounds may face, including feeling stressed living in overcrowded homes with extended families.
“A key learning has been that older people should not feel shame if they need to move from the family home due to overcrowding or stress,” Micallef said. “It is possible for families to live separately but enjoy the benefits of the extended family.”
Micallef said a number of older people of South Asian origin had made contact with HAAG’s Home at Last service, which provides help and information for people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or want help planning their future accommodation. Overall, 50 percent of the clients accessing the serviceare from CALD backgrounds.
“If the person needs an interpreter they need to call and leave a message with their name, phone number and preferred language,” Micallef said. “Home at Last will call them back with use of an interpreter.”
HAAG states that it focuses on supporting older renters because private rental housing is often unaffordable for older people on aged pensions. It can also be unsuitable for older people with age-related disabilities, as necessary modifications are often rejected by landlords.
The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011) figures revealed there were more than 19,934 people from non-English speaking backgrounds who were aged over 55 and renting in Victoria.
Older people of South Asian origin can access Home at Last’s services by calling 1300 765 178