Half of calls to helpline for elderly relate to homelessness

More than half of the calls to a helpline for older people related to homelessness or housing problems, a charity has revealed.

Alone has called on the Government to designate a portion of all social housing units for use by older people, and has launched a petition to seek public support for the measure.

Alone’s annual report, released yesterday, stated that the number of older people coming to the charity in need of housing increased by 90% in 2014.

Its chief executive, Sean Moynihan, said the charity was asking the Government to plan effectively for the housing needs of the country’s ageing population.

“All of our services focus on supporting older people to age at home,” said Mr Moynihan.

“However, in recent times, the number one issue that people have been presenting with is housing.

“Whether they are homeless, living in emergency accommodation, living in unsuitable or unsafe housing, housing is a critical issue for the people that we work with.

“We need to do better by our older people. The private rental market is simply not suitable for older people as many will have support needs as they age.

“If the Government is serious about supporting older people to remain living in the community, we need to plan for suitable housing with supports.

“There should be a detailed housing strategy for our ageing population with the number of social housing units ring-fenced mirroring the population in each council area.”

Alone, which receives no funding from the Government , provide supportive co-ordination, befriending, supportive housing, and campaigning services to hundreds of older people every week. It relies entirely on donations from the public.

“A large portion of those coming to us for support having been living in the private rental market for many years and now their landlords are increasing the rent, making them unable to afford their homes,” Mr Moynihan said.

Alone found that most older people who become homeless have little or no chance of securing private rented accommodation in the current congested housing market.

The causes Alone cited in its report as factors that impede older people in finding accommodation include a lack of suitable accommodation for single people, inability to compete in the private rental market, the bias of landlords against older people and dramatic cuts in grants that allowed older people carry out essential maintenance work on their homes.

“We ask the Government to designate a portion of all social housing units for use by older people.

“We need to have a system that supports older people, and allows them to pay a fair rent for accommodation that is suitable to their needs,” Mr Moynihan said.

“We are failing any older person who is living in shared emergency accommodation, or who can only afford a third floor apartment despite their mobility difficulties.

“These are not isolated occurrences and we need to act now.”

Alone’s petition can be found at www.ipetitions.com/petition/alone-homeless-in-all-but-name

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