My story

My name is Linda Mina and mine is a typical story for so many over 50 year old women. If you’re a renter, single, and you get sick, or lose your job, you often have very little chance of ever finding work again and as a result, you can end up homeless. This is because Newstart is unsustainable for the long term and rents are unaffordable, particularly for single people.

After raising 3 girls as a single parent, I took on the role as Carer for my mother after my father died. We both owned small apartments, so bought a house together that suited the situation. I used this time to undertake tertiary study and worked part-time as a community development worker. In 2008 when Mum passed away, I became very ill with an auto immune disease. I was too ill to continue working and was placed on the Widows Allowance. My income dropped dramatically, as this payment was the same as Newstart ($240 a week) and as it was not a pension, I no longer received concessions for my rates, power etc. Consequently, I fell behind in my mortgage and had to sell my house before it was repossessed.

But I was luckier than some, in that I was able to stay at my daughter’s for awhile until I recovered. Eventually, I thought “I can’t burden her forever, what can I do?”. So not being able to afford to rent a place on my own, I remembered the share houses of my youth. Although it was mostly young people advertising, I was lucky enough to find a lovely housemate of a similar age on Gumtree.

I realised from this experience that other Seniors might be in the same boat. Gumtree and weren’t very senior-friendly, so I set up the original Facebook group – Seniors Share Houses Gold Coast.

Eight years later, there are now several Seniors Share Houses groups for various locations. These groups facilitate connection for people with similar interests to share accommodation. Members advertise if offering or seeking accommodation and can chat through messages before making contact in person. As younger women requested to join, I started the group – Women Wide Network for Share Accommodation. This group has 5000k members across Australia.

The groups also provide a forum for women to share their stories. They highlight a problem of homelessness that is huge but largely hidden. This, because the majority of homeless women couchsurf or live with family and friends, so the statistics are underestimated. They say that’s often an uneasy situation where you never know if you’re welcome or simply being tolerated. They do not speak up because they often feel ashamed, and are therefore private about disclosing to even friends and relatives, that they can’t afford to live on their own. Additionally, there is a general consensus that most women will not go near crisis accommodation centres because they are full of drug and alcohol abusers and therefore not safe.

The continuing growth of homelessness for women over 50 can only get worse with time if not addressed as an urgent priority. It needs all levels of government to work collaboratively to ensure that affordable and appropriate accommodation is provided in a timely manner.