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News > General > Avoiding Homelessness

Avoiding Homelessness

New concept to see older women living together to avoid homelessness, loneliness
6 Aug 2021
Photo by Sharing with Friends
Photo by Sharing with Friends

Maggie Shambrook had a successful career and single-handedly raised three children before being made redundant.

Even though she has post-graduate qualifications, she was forced onto the Newstart allowance.

"I lost my job and my house I'd been living in for 25 years," the 65-year-old said.

"I had no success in the private rental market because I was on Newstart. I applied for 30 properties and couldn't find anywhere to live."

Ms Shambrook now rents the downstairs area of a house, but says it is not "a long-term solution".

Her story is an all too familiar one for older women who are recognised as the fastest-growing cohort of homeless people in the country.

The average superannuation balance of a woman at retirement is $157,000, compared to men who retire with an average super balance of $270,000.

Ms Shambrook said the amount of super available to women was "precious" because it could help supplement a fixed income, like the aged pension.

"To spend it all on rent is devastating really," she said.

Facing a soaring rental market and no hope of ever owning her own home, Ms Shambrook and several other women turned to the newly formed foundation Sharing With Friends.

The organisation, which is currently applying for charitable status, aims to provide an opportunity for women to buy into an affordable, custom-built home.

The prototype is designed to fit on an 800-square-metre suburban block of land provided by the charity.

The idea is that five women each invest $120,000, which pays for the construction of affordable purpose-built accommodation consisting of five private living quarters, with a communal laundry, library, and garden.

The architect behind the design, Eloise Atkinson, said the challenge was to balance the cost with liveability.

"It set up a number of conversations about what the women are prepared to share and what do they need to have as private space," Ms Atkinson said.

"One thing to remember is that there isn't a blanket solution.

"Even if you get five women together, you've got five different sets of priorities and compromises in working through that."

The first five women to commit to the program met at a Sharing With Friends workshop.

Linda Hahn, 63, said part of the process was to explore each person's wants and needs.

"Getting to know each other and understanding each other's values is important because that's the foundation of compatibility," she said.

The concept not only provides a housing solution for single women, but also addresses another epidemic — loneliness.

That was a major factor in 73-year-old Barbara Symes's decision to participate.

"I don't have any family at all, so the sense of community is important as far as I'm concerned," she said.

Sharing With Friends president Susan Davies said she had 120 women on her database keen to explore the concept.

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"There's a whole range of solutions to the problem of housing older women in our communities," she said.

"This was one that we, based on our Zonta connections, thought we could achieve.

"There are 45 Zonta clubs in communities throughout Queensland and we are certainly going to be advocating for those community-based organisations to take on our model."

There are still hurdles to overcome, such as local planning laws, but this group of women now have hope for a brighter tomorrow.

For full article visit ABC News and learn more. 

Posted Sat 24 Jul 2021 at 8:28am by Dea Clark



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