After thirty-five years of marriage, Ivy's life took an unexpected turn when her husband filed for divorce. Within weeks, a deserted tunnel at a nearby train station became Ivy's new 'home'. 

For most of her life, Ivy was a stay-at-home mum so when her marriage fell apart, she had no superannuation or job skills to rely on. Not wanting to be a burden on her adult children and too ashamed to ask for help, Ivy quietly disappeared from her family’s life.

Ivy spent 20 years anxious, afraid and alone sleeping in the tunnel of a train station. Sadly, Ivy’s story of hardship is not unique.

Frightening statistics of older women experiencing homelessness.

On any given night in Australia, there are more than 7,300 women over 55 years who don't have a safe place to call home.1 Another 165,000 women aged 45-54 are at risk of becoming homeless.2 Like Ivy, some are forced to sleep on the streets, but there are countless other vulnerable older women experiencing hidden homelessness.

These women rely on temporary accommodation, shuffle from couch-to-couch or between sub-standard facilities – although their experience may not be as easily visible, they also need support.

They are particularly vulnerable to sudden and unexpected life events such as a health crisis, family breakdown or death of a loved one.

For roughly 57% of Australia's retired population, pension or government allowances are their main source of income3 but older women without sufficient superannuation savings can be exposed to the effects of homelessness later in life.

Learn more about the causes of homelessness in older people.

Older people deserve to age with dignity. 

Years of sleeping on the streets badly affected Ivy’s health. As she approached her 80th birthday, Ivy suffered a serious bout of pneumonia which led to her hospitalisation. The hospital staff referred Ivy to Charles Chambers Court, one of Mission Australia’s residential aged-care facilities, providing vulnerable older people with a safe and caring environment.

At Charles Chamber Court, Ivy received regular, nutritious meals, hot showers, her own toilet, a warm bed and 24-hour medical care. But it was hard for Ivy to adjust to the new environment after the chaos of homelessness. She initially struggled to trust the other residents and avoided all eye contact with our staff. 

Over time, our staff earned Ivy’s trust and gradually, Charles Chambers Court became Ivy’s haven. In the remaining years of her life, Ivy was able to experience warmth and support, becoming a much-loved part of our community. We are grateful that before Ivy passed away, she had finally found a safe home.

Vulnerable older women like Ivy are in desperate need of your support. When you make a one-off donation to Mission Australia, you can help older women find a safe home where they can thrive and age with dignity.

Help end homelessness in Australia

With your donation, older people in need can access the urgent support they need to find a safe home and thrive.

Donate today or Partner with us or Leave a gift

Names and images have been changed to protect the identity of the people we help.

1ABS (2021) Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2021
2Housing for the Aged Action Group (2020)
3ABS, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2018

Related news and stories

Read about what we’ve been working on, our stance on important social issues and how you make a difference to vulnerable Australians' lives.

Our founding purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'