Category

Homelessness

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for homelessness

By | Blog, Homelessness

A wide range of speakers discussed why there is no ‘quick fix’ for women facing homelessness at The Lady Musgrave Trust’s 11th Annual Women and Homelessness Forum.

The theme of this year’s Forum was ‘Building Resilience – Surviving and Thriving’. As the speakers shared their reflections on the topic with the sold-out crowd at the Queensland Multicultural Centre, it quickly became clear that ‘surviving and thriving’ will mean something different for every individual woman facing the threat of homelessness.

The Member for Redlands, Kim Richards MP — appearing at the event on behalf of the Hon Mick de Brenni, Queensland Minister for the Department of Housing and Public Works — noted that “every situation is different, every circumstance is different”, and that homelessness can happen to virtually any woman at any time.

“I’ve seen it in my own family,” she said.

“My sister lives up in Cairns. She moved up there because that’s where her husband worked at the time. It was a very happy marriage, or what she thought was a very happy marriage, for 10 years. She was a stay-at-home mum, she had given up her career for his career. All of a sudden it was over.

“She didn’t have the skills she needed to get back into the workforce. She didn’t have the means to be economically independent. Finding a house up in Cairns… it was complex, and it was difficult, and without family support at the time, it would have been [even more] difficult.

“My sister was one of the lucky ones because she had a family that could help her. A lot of people don’t have that. They don’t have access to a family that can support them in that way to get back into their home, and to get back on to the pathway that helps them take their future forward.”

Financial counsellor Mark Bates explained that when people were going through a financial crisis, “it’s often because of something that’s beyond their control”.

“It might be a job loss or something like that. It can be quite scary, because I often find with the clients I’ve worked with that very small things can land people in a very, very difficult space.

“I had a gentleman come to see me who’d run his own multi-million dollar international business. The business had failed, he had started drinking and his wife had left him. He was not able to open his own mail anymore. He needed someone to be there to open his bills with him. What that tells us is that things can change very dramatically, even when we think we’re in a fantastic position, so you should always show respect and humility.”

Dr Ruth Knight, a Senior Research Fellow at QUT’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, said organisations needed to innovate to be able to meet the varying needs of people at risk.

“There are a myriad of issues we need to address,” she said.

“We can’t just give people a house and expect to solve homelessness. We can’t just provide mental health services and expect to solve mental illness. We have to take a ‘systems view’ to our community; we have to look at the ways that we can be innovative within our organisations; we have to get much better at evaluating and reporting our impact; and we need to create better partnerships with the funders of our services — not just government, but social investors and philanthropists.

“All of that is critical to whether we’re going to get better or we’re going to get worse. We’re all in this. We’re all responsible, not just government.”

Kim Richards emphasised the need for a “more personalised and tailored approach” to dealing with homelessness.

“From a government point of view, resilience is about having the right programs, but it’s also about having the right people,” she said.

“I know we can’t do it on our own. I don’t think any one entity can do it on their own. It’s about walking the journey together, and that is critical to breaking the cycle of homelessness.”

Afterpay on Phone

Why managing money matters for women at risk of homelessness

By | Blog, Homelessness, News

A little knowledge can go a long way. It can even be the difference between the safety of home and the dangers of homelessness.

Of course, there are any number of reasons that someone can become homeless. But according to Lynne Hughes, a financial counsellor with The Salvation Army’s Moneycare service, many people underestimate the importance of getting help early.

Financial shocks like losing your job, getting sick or injured, or leaving a relationship requires an urgent reassessment of the budget. Some people use credit to try and get them through the difficult times when a longer term strategy would be more helpful. Some also don’t call the real estate agent or their mortgage provider early enough.

“A lot of our clients are vulnerable. They’re on a low fixed incomes and don’t have the wiggle room to participate in the high cost financial products like payday loans, consumer leases and Afterpays that are readily available to this group, or the new pay as you go products like Uber Eats or Uber taxis.

People can be easily sucked into using these products without really understanding the risks to their budget. Repayments are usually set up via direct debit to their bank account or Centrepay and before you know it there is little money left for rent, food or medical costs. Afterpays encourage overspending and it’s easy to get two or three of these without realising the detrimental effect it will have on the budget.

As a financial counsellor, Hughes is trained to assess her clients’ financial situation and help them develop a plan to improve it, especially if the debts put housing security at risk. According to Hughes, it’s often the job of the financial counsellor to help their clients get a better grasp on – their priorities – and, in some cases, to understand the real value of the roof over their head.

Hughes says that in the 5 years to 2017/18 The Salvation Army’s Moneycare service saw 67% of participants in housing stress, paying more than 30% of their income toward housing whilst 25% of participants experienced extreme housing stress paying 70% of their income towards housing. More than one in four private renters experienced extreme housing stress and in the last 10 years the proportion of private renters over 55 had increased by 55.5%.

To better understand the value of education, The Salvation Army Moneycare undertook a study with Swinburne University that found 94% of financial counselling participants ‘wished they had known earlier ’. As a result of that study Hughes says Moneycare has an emphasis on “educating the community more about budgeting and money”.

Hughes says she often passes The Lady Musgrave Trust’s Handy Guide for Homeless Women on to her female clients, “because all the resources in there are terrific”.

Whether a client is facing a crisis or just looking to tighten up their budget, Hughes says an appointment with a financial counsellor will provide them with helpful and practical information — and that information could make all the difference.

“Financial counselling offers people a step in the right direction, so hopefully they don’t end up facing homelessness.”

 

Women’s financial literacy will be discussed at the 11th Annual Forum on Women and Homelessness, along with a blend of thought-provoking presentations, practical case studies, panel discussions and master classes on mentoring women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, at the Queensland Multicultural Centre (102 Main Street, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane) on Wednesday 7 August, 2019.

Woman on step

What really causes homelessness for women and their children?

By | Blog, Homelessness

Homelessness doesn’t discriminate. And it can happen in an instant for anyone from any background. But when it comes to the reasons why people find themselves homeless the list is long and varied, touching on a range of social, economic and health-related factors.

It could be as seemingly simple as an unexpected car breakdown, losing a job or some other incident that sets the wheels in motion for a person to suddenly find themselves no longer able to afford their rent or accommodation costs.

Ongoing health issues, struggling to find affordable rental housing, economic and social exclusion, or not feeling safe at home are among the other reasons. But when you look at the research and the anecdotal evidence gathered by those in frontline services, there are four main causes that can single-handedly, or in combination, lead to homelessness.

Domestic violence

Family, sexual and domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness across Australia for women and children – and particularly so for those who are young, pregnant or have an Indigenous background. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that in 2016-17 about 72,000 women and 34,000 children found themselves homeless for this very reason. They also discovered the problem has only grown in the past five years.

The AIHW says in Australia one in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15 and, alarmingly, on average one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.

Financial difficulties

In Queensland, 25 per cent of homelessness is attributed to experiencing financial difficulty and the inability to afford adequate housing. This can of course result from many different personal experiences, including short- or long-term unemployment or a sudden loss of employment, as well as debt, housing market pressures and rising rental and housing prices.

There are many other financial pressures too, from everyday living costs to unexpected costs that can tip a person’s budget over the edge and make them financially unstable. Often, financial difficulties will come in combination with the other key drivers for homelessness – such as family breakdown, health obstacles and domestic violence.

Some will experience intergenerational poverty and have never known any different, meaning they lack the connections and therefore possible support in periods of stress or financial hardship, which are difficult to face alone.

Mental health

The link between homelessness and mental health is well established. Just as mental health problems can be a key contributing factor in the lead-up to homelessness, the very experience of being homeless can leave a devastating impact on individuals at a mental and emotional level. These two issues are tightly interconnected and their impact on the other irrefutable.

While quantifying the prevalence of mental illness as a number of percentage in homeless populations is very difficult, and the estimates that do exist vary greatly, it is fair to say that mental health issues in homeless people are more common than in the average population.

Drug and alcohol issues

The research has found that drug and alcohol abuse and addiction is another factor that can play a role in causing homelessness, but it’s important to note that it’s not always a factor and that there are many stereotypes and stigmas around this very complex issue.

Researchers have consistently found that rates of alcohol and other drug use are higher in the homeless than for the general population – and that for women in particular, drugs can prove a bigger problem than alcohol. It is however very difficult to differentiate how much substance abuse leads to homelessness in comparison to how homelessness may lead to substance abuse, so they are are interconnected.

There are many varied factors that can influence a person’s life in the lead-up to and during homelessness that make this a very complex issue and one that we must continue to address.

 

The Lady Musgrave Trust is Queensland’s oldest charity, and is committed to making a difference in the lives of those who find themselves homeless and in need at difficult times in their life.

We focus specifically on women and children’s homelessness throughout Queensland and provide young women up to the age of 30 with low cost accommodation and support services in our portfolio in Brisbane and Ipswich. We also create and distribute The Handy Guide for Homeless Women and host a unique Annual Forum focused on women and homelessness.

House key ring

What does it mean to be homeless?

By | Homelessness

On any given night in Australia, there are 116,000 people who are considered homeless. That’s about 50 homeless persons for every 10,000 people. And the rate of homelessness is only increasing – up 4.6 per cent in five years according the the latest data from the 2016 Census.

But what does it actually mean to be homeless?

The very word ‘homelessness’ conjures an image that alludes to sleeping rough. But in reality, this vision represents only about seven per cent of the homeless population.

While there’s no internationally recognised common definition of homelessness, in Australia our federal law defines it as ‘inadequate access to safe and secure housing’.

This includes where the only housing available to a person is likely to damage their health or threatens their safety, or perhaps marginalises them by failing to provide access to adequate personal amenities or the normal economic and social support of a home. It also includes where it may place them in circumstances that threaten or adversely affect the adequacy, safety, security and affordability of that housing.

What this doesn’t include is the multitude of people who are ‘sleeping rough’, which often involves people moving between friends and families houses in search of a safe night’s sleep.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) offers further insight to understand the complexities and help show how homelessness can affect people in different ways, depending on their own personal situations and needs.

To better understand homelessness in its various forms and what it looks like and what those people are experiencing, they’ve created three specific categories to specify the details and differences – primary, secondary and tertiary homelessness.

“Primary homelessness” includes those living on the streets, in parks, under bridges, in deserted buildings or improvised dwellings – or being ‘roofless’ or ‘sleeping out’ as it’s sometimes called. This is the most visible kind of homeless, but is the smallest statistic.

“Secondary homelessness” refers to people who are moving between various types of temporary shelters. This includes emergency accommodation, refuges and hostels, bunking with friends and relatives, and living in a boarding house on a long-term basis with shared amenities and no secure tenure.
And “tertiary homelessness” – people who are living in single rooms in private boarding houses without their own bathroom and kitchen, and no secure tenure.

It is important to recognise that all of these forms or levels of homelessness involve a group of people who are in need of safe and secure housing in order to get back on their feet and have the basic human right of shelter.

The Lady Musgrave Trust helps by focusing specifically on women and children’s homelessness throughout Queensland. We provide young women up to the age of 30 with low cost accommodation and support services in our portfolio in Brisbane and Ipswich. We also create and distribute The Handy Guide for Homeless Women and host a unique Annual Forum focused on women and homelessness.

As Queensland’s oldest charity, The Lady Musgrave Trust is committed to making a difference in the lives of those who find themselves homeless and in need at difficult times in their life.

christmas gift

Myer Indooroopilly Christmas gift wrapping to raise funds for The Lady Musgrave Trust

By | Blog, Homelessness, News

This Christmas, volunteers from St Peters Lutheran College will be gift wrapping at Myer Indooroopilly to raise funds for The Lady Musgrave Trust.

Thanks to a wonderful group of students, parents and teacher volunteers, Christmas shoppers who buy items at Myer Indooroopilly can have their gifts wrapped for them, on the spot.

All money raised will go towards helping The Lady Musgrave Trust to continue delivering essential services for young homeless women in need.

The 2018 Myer Charity Christmas Wrapping kicks off today, Friday December 7th, until Christmas Eve, with daily gift wrapping from 10.00am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4.00pm – including weekends.

“St Peters Lutheran College, through our Community Hub, are delighted to assist The Lady Musgrave Trust with their Christmas wrapping fundraiser,” says Deputy Head of College Lisa Delaney.

“The wonderful work done by the Trust reflects the College’s values of Care, Dignity and Respect.

“Our community has rallied behind this initiative and we are looking forward to a very successful fundraising venture and to continuing our partnership with the Trust.”

The Lady Musgrave Trust is honoured to have the support of both the school and Myer Indooroopilly over the festive season – which can often be a difficult period for those families in need.

The Lady Musgrave Trust has a long-running connection with Myer Indooroopilly, who have been raising funds through the Myer Community Fund for two years now through regular staff morning teas and who offered the Trust this opportunity for Christmas wrapping.

On the 13th December they will also be hosting a morning tea with the Myer Indooroopilly staff and The Lady Musgrave Trust board members, to celebrate their very generous, recent donation of $25,000.

This will contribute to the cost of accommodation for women and children across Queensland.

The Trust relies on the support of the community to assist women and children in need and deliver such essential services. We are truly grateful for the ongoing support from Myer Indooroopilly to help us make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

While Christmas is often seen as the happiest time of year, it is also hard for many families. Let’s remember that and support families in need.

Thanks to…

St Peters Myer