Facts sheets have been provided to UNSEEN by Dr Jane Bullen, a member of the Executive Committee of Women’s Electoral Lobby, NSW, and is currently Deputy Convenor, Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW.
Quick Facts – Over 50,000 Australian women are homeless and another 400,000 over 45 are at risk, with domestic violence and financial abuse being the largest causes.
- Older women are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia. In NSW, between 2011 and 2016 the number of women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness increased by 48% and the number aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased by 78%. This number will increase again with the negative impact of COVID-19 on women’s lives. Domestic violence is the main reason for women’s homelessness. 41% of people seeking help from homelessness services do so because of domestic violence –
overwhelmingly, they are women and children.
- Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women face barriers in accessing and understanding services, and there is a lack of specific funding to assist them.
- Many women with disability live in poverty and there is a lack of affordable and suitable housing options available for people with a range of disabilitiies. Services may also not be accessible or adequately resourced for women with disabilities.
- First Nations people are 3.2% of the Australian population yet are 27% of those using homelessness services, with twice as many adult women as adult men using services. Severe shortages of crisis and long-term housing, especially in regional and remote areas, mean these women and their children are routinely turned away, are unable to access help and may have no option but to return to an unsafe situation.
August 2021 Fact Sheet
Homelessness Awareness Week
The UNSEEN Chrome Car and UNSEEN Chrome Tiny House are being displayed at Pier 8/9 Walsh Bay Wharf, Hickson Road Dawes Point as a part of ArtPark Sculpture Walk.
NSW has had a windfall of an additional $1 billion in stamp duty from the housing market but the NSW Budget has failed to use these unexpected funds to invest in social housing for those who cannot afford private rental housing, including NSW women struggling with homelessness related to domestic violence, poverty and insecure employment. Availability of social housing in Australia has plummeted by over 50% over the last 30 years.
The NSW government’s initiatives to house people identified as sleeping rough are vital, however many women experiencing homelessness avoid visible rough sleeping but are nevertheless in desperate situations, sometimes long-term. NSW Government assistance to rough sleepers occurs through the Premier’s Priority on Street Homelessness and, during the COVID lockdown, through the provision of emergency hotel accommodation. However many vulnerable women will not be assisted by these initiatives.
Homelessness services and domestic violence refuges report they are unable to meet demand for crisis accommodation, and are turning away more clients than they can support, and the waiting list for social housing in NSW is around 60,000 people, with many people waiting for over 10 years. Women and children escaping domestic violence are forced to return to dangerous situations because they have nowhere to live. Older women are living in cars or sleeping rough in concealed locations. Women are unable to get early assistance to prevent housing insecurity problems worsening and resulting in homelessness. The impacts of COVID are exacerbating the situations of women without housing.
July 2021 Fact Sheet
NAIDOC WEEK: Heal Country, heal our nation.
Nadeena Dixon’s collaborative weaving project has been postponed till COVID restrictions allow. The UNSEEN Chrome Car and UNSEEN Chrome Tiny House are still being displayed at Hickson Road Walsh Bay.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been undercounted in the Census and therefore, estimates of homelessness based on Census data will be an underestimation. According to the Census, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made up 3% of the Australian population in 2016. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 20% (23,437 persons) (down from 26% in 2011) of all persons who were homeless on Census night in 2016. The rate of homelessness among Aboriginal people in the 2016 Census is 361 per 10,000 of the total Aboriginal population (compared to the rate of 49.8 per 10,000 for the total national population).
2,278 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were recorded as homeless in NSW in 2016 (up 3% from 2,205 in 2011). 216,176 Aboriginal people were recorded as living in NSW on Census night 2016 (2.9% of the total NSW population). Aboriginal people accounted for 6% of the entire homeless population in NSW. 1.1% of the NSW Aboriginal population were recorded as homeless in 2016
Indigenous women and girls are at least 31 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence related assaults than other Australian women and girls. Around a quarter of all Indigenous women have experienced physical violence in the last 12 months.
June 2021 Fact Sheet
The June activation themes of the UNSEEN Arts Hub are older women, poverty, domestic violence, elder abuse and homelessness. This month the UNSEEN Chrome Car will be at Circular Quay while the UNSEEN Chrome Tiny House will be in Walsh Bay. The installation highlights how the Australian housing market lacks affordable rental housing and the long waiting lists for tightly targeted social housing.
Some facts on older women, poverty, domestic violence, elder abuse and homelessness
Older women are the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia:
- Nationally the number of women experiencing homelessness aged over 55 increased by 31% between 2011 and 2016, and the number aged between 65 and 74 increased by 51%;
- In NSW the rate of increase is even more shocking: the number of women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness increased by 48% and the number aged between 65 and 74 increased by 78%.
405,000 women aged 45 years and over are estimated as being at risk of homelessness. This includes:
- 165,000 women aged 45-55 years; and,
- 240,000 women aged 55 years and over.
Women’s economic and other inequality create disadvantage in accessing housing, including housing insecurity and homelessness. Women’s economic disadvantage and poverty result from multiple lifetime factors, including gaps in pay, wealth and superannuation and women’s greater responsibility for caring for children and other family members. In addition, women’s experiences of domestic and other gendered violence including the impacts of trauma, injury, dislocation, financial abuse and disproportionate loss of wealth upon separation cause immediate and long-term economic and other disadvantage.
Elder abuse is commonly defined to refer to abuse by people ‘in a position of trust’. Although this will include paid carers, elder abuse is often committed by a family member of the older person—notably, by adult children, but also the older person’s spouse or partner. Elder abuse will therefore often also be family or domestic violence. Some ‘family agreements’ involve an older person transferring the title to their home, or the proceeds from the sale of the home or other assets, to an adult child in exchange for ongoing care, support and housing. If the promise of ongoing care is not fulfilled, or the relationship breaks down, the older person may even be left without a place to live.
Older single women in the private rental market face increased risks and are over twice as likely to be at risk compared to older single women who hold a mortgage. For women aged 55-64 living in private rentals, the probability of being at risk is approximately 28 per cent. This number rises to over 85 per cent for women who are also not employed full-time and have experienced at least one prior occurrence of being at risk.
The private rental market is completely inappropriate for older people due to the cost for age pensioners, the lack of secure tenure and difficulties obtaining aged care modifications to enable them to age-in-place. Older people who are excluded from the private rental market are less likely to approach services and may live semi-permanently with friends, family, temporary shelters of many types and also sleeping in cars. 
- There is a need for increased availability of appropriate housing that older women can afford, as well as tailored information and support for older low income/asset older women. The Home at Last model, has been successful interstate. It includes early intervention via community engagement to reach people before they hit a housing crisis point, housing information and warm referrals, and one-on-one housing support for those in crisis.
- Lowering eligibility for priority social housing on the basis of age from the current age of 80 years. Average life expectancy at birth for females is 84.6 and for males 80.4, so this policy will not assist most people.
 ABS Census of Population and Housing, Estimating Homelessness, 2016, cat no. 2049.0
 National Older Women’s Housing and Homelessness Working Group (2018). Retiring into poverty – A national plan for change: Increasing housing security for older women. https://www.mercyfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Retiring-into-Poverty-National-Plan-for-Change-Increasing-Housing-Security-for-Older-Women-23-August-2018.pdf
 Cortis, N., & Bullen, J. (2016). Domestic violence and women’s economic security: Building Australia’s capacity for prevention and redress: Final report Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
May 2021 Fact Sheet
The May activation themes of the UNSEEN Arts Hub align with Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Youth Homelessness Week. This month the UNSEEN Tiny House becomes invisible as it is wrapped in a chrome finish in Martin Place to highlight how the Australian housing market lacks affordable rental housing and the long waiting lists for tightly targeted social housing.
Some facts about domestic violence and homelessness
- Family and domestic violence is the main cause of homelessness for women[i]
- Women and their children who have experienced family and domestic violence make up 41% of homelessness services clients in 2019–20, with w[ii]
- In 2019–20, 41% of all people using homelessness services (119,200 people) had experienced family and domestic violence. Women were 90% of adult clients[iii]
- Over 1 in 3 (36%) people using homelessness services who had experienced domestic violence were under the age of 18[iv]
- The lack of affordable, suitable housing for women and children escaping domestic violence means that moving from refuge or other temporary accommodation into permanent, independent housing is very difficult, and sometimes unachievable. Short term services and other supports cannot compensate for the lack of long term housing. Where safe, secure and affordable housing is not available, women may decide to return to a violent relationship because they perceive this as a safer option than the alternatives[v].
Some facts about LGBQTIA+ people and homelessness
- LGB people are at least twice as likely as heterosexuals to experience homelessness. People who identify as bisexual are much more likely to have at least five repeated experiences of homelessness. LGBTQ people are more likely to experience homelessness at a younger age and this is driven by family rejection. LGBTQ people experience misgendering, harassment, violence, & discrimination in shared accommodation facilities, rooming houses and services, and discrimination in private rental. Fears of, or actual negative experiences suffered in homelessness services are creating barriers to help-seeking[vi]
- LGBTI elders are more likely to live in poverty and experience homelessness, compared to the mainstream population due to both the complexity of their experiences and difficulty accessing services[vii].
- A survey carried out by the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby in 2019, revealed that 47.5% of LGBTQI persons surveyed had experienced homelessness or housing insecurity, or had been at risk of homelessness. 40% of the respondents had reported discrimination against them in the housing market. Among trans and gender diverse persons, the numbers were worse, with 79 % experiencing homelessness in some form and 62.5 % being subjected to discrimination while accessing the housing market. For Intersex persons 50 % had experienced homelessness and 75 % faced discrimination. For LGBTQI persons with a disability, 78 % had experienced homelessness and 66 % had faced discrimination[viii].
April 2021 Fact Sheet
The April activation themes of the UNSEEN Arts Hub align with Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Youth Homelessness Week. This month sees the UNSEEN Tiny House’s first appearance in Martin Place to highlight how the Australian housing market lacks affordable rental housing and the long waiting lists for tightly targeted social housing.
- 3 in 5 of young people (aged 15–24) presenting alone to a specialist homelessness agency in 2019-20 were female (63% or almost 26,900 young women)[i].
- Sexual abuse is a major contributing reason for young women’s homelessness[ii]. Other factors include housing crisis, insecure employment, lack of income, domestic violence, relationship or family breakdown, gender and LGBTQI issues[iii]. Young people face discrimination in the private rental market due to lack of rental references and fewer financial resources, and are less able to access social housing[iv].
- Census data has revealed that the rate of youth homelessness in NSW (young people aged 12-24) increased from 6,631 in 2011 to 9,041 in 2016, which includes rough sleeping, couch surfing, sleeping in homeless shelters or in severe overcrowding. This alarming increase signifies that youth homelessness needs to be given more attention and resources[v].
- 3 in 10 (29%) of people using specialist homelessness services in 2019-20 were under the age of 18[vi].
- Children who experience homelessness with their parents or who are removed or separated from their parents as a result of their parents’ homelessness, are more likely to experience hunger, developmental delay, poor educational outcomes, depression, low self-esteem and other problems than children who do not experience homelessness. They are also more likely to experience homelessness in later life[vii].
- The intergenerational homelessness rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is significantly higher than for non-Indigenous people[viii].
- At the time of the 2016 Census: 80% of very low-income ($673 or less per week) private renter households nationally were paying unaffordable rents; in Sydney 92% of very low-income households were paying unaffordable rents; 36% of low income ($674-1,182 per week) households nationally were living in unaffordable rentals; in Sydney, 71% of low-income households are paying unaffordable rents[ix].
- Anglicare’s Rental snapshot reports that there is almost no private rental housing that is affordable for people on low incomes often received by young people, or receiving Youth Allowance, Jobseeker and other pensions and benefits[x].
- There are now over 59,000 households on the NSW social housing waiting list[xi].
- The Personal Safety Survey (2016) estimated that 1 in 5 (1.7 million) women have been sexually assaulted since the age of 15. Many women do not seek advice or support after sexual assault.xii
- Violence, including sexual assault, is a cause of women’s homelessness, and women may also experience violence including sexual assault during homelessness. Like housed women, homeless women experience violence, but their vulnerability is increased by their lack of secure housing. The longer women remain homeless, the greater their risk of violence, intimidation and harassment.xiii
xiii Suellen Murray (2011), Violence against homeless women: Safety and social policy, Australian Social Work, 64:3, 346-360
March 2021 Fact Sheet
The March activation of the UNSEEN Project on women’s homelessness aligns with 8 March International Women’s Day. 34% of homeless women are ‘rough sleepers’ who are living on the streets, sleeping in parks, staying in cars or impoverished dwellings. However rough sleepers are only 7% of the homeless population. Others experiencing homelessness either move from one temporary shelter to another, live temporarily with family or friends or in sub standard boarding houses. These women are UNSEEN, hidden from view through fear of violence and stigmatisation. The art installation of the UNSEEN Chrome Car reflects the hidden nature of their experiences of homelessness and housing insecurity and how, for others a car is the only safe place to live with their children. Too often these women are told to ‘move on’ by people living in nearby houses.
- Older women are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia. In NSW, between 2011 and 2016 the number of women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness increased by 48% and the number aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased by 78%[i]. This number will continue to increase in future decades due to the continuing increase in low income sole person households combined with worsening housing affordability[ii].
- Domestic violence is the main reason for women’s homelessness. 41% of people seeking help from homelessness services do so because of domestic violence – overwhelmingly, they are women and children[iii].
- Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women face barriers in accessing and understanding services, and there is a lack of specific funding to assist them[iv].
- Many women with disability live in poverty and there is a lack of affordable and suitable housing options available for people with a range of disabilities[v]. Services may also not be accessible or adequately resourced for women with disabilities[vi].
- First Nations people are 3.2% of the Australian population yet are 27% of those using homelessness services, with twice as many adult women as adult men using services[vii]. Severe shortages of crisis and long-term housing, especially in regional and remote areas, mean these women and their children are routinely turned away, are unable to access help and may have no option but to return to an unsafe situation[viii].