Imagine spending cold nights in a park, on a freezing floor or in your car. Imagine being constantly afraid for your safety – afraid you’ll be attacked or robbed of your only possessions. Imagine the hopelessness, worry and fear.
This winter, more than 15,000 older Australians won’t have a bed to sleep in.
The Sisters of Charity Foundation urgently needs your help to find them shelter and safety.
Faye’s beloved daughter contracted a rare form of cancer when she was only 31 years old and passed away. Unable to comprehend that her child had died, Faye struggled to cope. The stress and grief took its toll on Faye’s relationship and her health. She became seriously ill and was admitted to hospital where she fell into a coma for a couple of weeks.
When she came out of the coma, hospital staff told her that her husband had not visited her once.
Faye returned home after she was discharged but her relationship continued to deteriorate. Faye told her husband she wanted a divorce. He responded by forcing her outside and locking the front door in her face.
At 68 years of age Faye left with nothing – no clothing, no medicine, no possessions. She spent the next two years living in a boarding house in terrible conditions where she feared for her safety.
Eventually Faye decided it would be cheaper to sleep rough. She could never have imagined her life would end up like this.
At 68 years of age Faye left with nothing – no clothing, no medicine, no possessions.
Faye moved into a water pipe in the mangroves in northern NSW, where she lived for the next nine months.
A group of homeless men were living nearby, but luckily saw Faye as a mother figure and tried to protect her. When youths came into the camp and starting throwing rocks, the men were concerned for Faye’s safety. They approached the team at Agape Outreach Inc, who encouraged them to bring Faye along to their free meal service.
“She was a lady of small stature and looked so fragile,” a caseworker describes. “Faye looked like someone’s grandma and our hearts broke for her… After a little while Faye started to trust us and we attempted to get her into housing.”
The team at Agape Outreach Inc worked on a plan to get her to leave the water pipe and into housing. Years of being alone had left her distrustful and traumatised.
Faye continued to attend the free meal service and she gradually began to trust the volunteers. They arranged some share accommodation for her with an older lady in the community and gave her five blankets for the first night.
Strangely, Faye complained about being cold in her new surroundings. She was given more blankets the next day, but the team eventually realised the problem wasn’t the lack of blankets. Faye was used to sleeping on top of the blankets – not under them – to give her elderly bones some padding on the cold cement of the water pipe.
Eventually the Agape team moved Faye to a motel during the coldest part of winter. She began to share the story of her daughter’s death and all that she had been through since then.
Faye eventually settled into shared accommodation where she helped look after a disabled woman in her 80s, together with the woman’s daughter.
*Agape Outreach Inc shared Faye’s story with us.
Many older Australians are facing homelessness
Research shows that a growing number of people experience homelessness later in life. One in six homeless people are aged 55 or older – and this will only increase due to Australia’s ageing population and declining rates of home ownership among older people.
Women, like Faye, are particularly vulnerable to life events like relationship breakdowns, a health crisis or a death in the family. Domestic violence and financial stress as a result of grief and stress can lead families to end up on the streets, in shelters, or sleeping in their cars. Women without savings or superannuation are particularly at risk.
COVID-19 has worsened homelessness
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant many older Australians have been forced into poverty and homelessness. Many of the organisations we fund through the Community Grants Program have doubled the numbers of people they support. Agape Outreach Inc told us they had 38 active clients in their local area just over a year ago. Today they have more than 500.
How is the Sisters of Charity Foundation helping?
Through the Community Grants Program, the Sisters of Charity Foundation funds organisations that support homeless people by providing meals, friendship and shelter.
The generosity of our supporters has allowed us to give out more than $8,800,000 in grants.
This winter, with so many older Australians facing hard days and even harder nights in poverty and isolation, we need your help more than ever.
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