ELDERLY homelessness is not something the public are particularly aware of, yet it is increasingly becoming a major problem along the Coffs Coast, according to the Coffs Harbour Accommodation Brokerage and Housing Support Service.
Former Woolgoolga resident Sheila Sheridan knows the perils of being without a home all too well – but she is one of the lucky ones, having finally found a unit to move into with assistance from the Department of Housing.
It all began for Sheila, 68, when a number of health issues meant she needed to travel to and from Sydney for treatment.
The cost of rent, travel and healthcare coupled with her health ailments all became too much, and Sheila soon found herself without a home.
She was forced to borrow money from friends for operations, and use what little money she had on motels.
Now, after seeking help from the Department of Housing, she has finally found a unit.
“The Department of Housing were good, and they have helped me,” she said.
“But the paperwork was astounding.
“Honestly, I thank God that I have found a unit, and I want people out there that are struggling to know there is hope,” she said.
“I know what its like to be scraping for every cent. I was down to my last bag of spaghetti and tomato sauce. I've been so fortunate that I could stay in motels, otherwise I would have been out in the street. I know there are a lot of people much worse off than I am.”
Coffs Harbour Accommodation Brokerage and Housing Support Service coordinator, Mena Johnson, said elderly homelessness in the Coffs region is on the rise.
“It is a huge problem for the elderly along the Coffs Coast at the moment,” she said.
“They're just not finding the accommodation, and when they do, there are 30 or 40 people applying for the same unit, and they are pushed to the bottom of the list.
“On average, a two bedroom unit costs about $380 a fortnight – that's three quarters of the pension. Elderly people can't afford to rent.”