'I'm 72 and escaped domestic violence. Now I'm homeless.'

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of domestic violence that may be distressing to some readers.

Sarah* never saw herself as someone who could end up homeless. It's an assumption many of us would have about ourselves - but ultimately, homelessness can affect anyone

At 72, Sarah is retired after working for many years at her corporate job, has an adult son living out of home and she lives in Queensland.

Cost of living had been putting a pinch on her purse strings, and the rent on her old apartment was rising higher and higher. Even though she had been a stable and good tenant for over 10 years, the landlords kept increasing her rent - soon to a point where it became completely unaffordable

So she made inquiries and research into other options. And one option was shared accommodation.

"It ended up being a really lovely house and all I had to do was share the house with two or three other people," she tells Mamamia. "Little did I know what would eventuate."

Watch: One person's story of experiencing homelessness. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia. 

"I moved in and it turned out to be disastrous. I was badly bullied by the male in the house. He put his hands on me four times in the space of me being there for three months," she explains.


"By the fourth time he put his hands on me, I fell over and became very scared. I pulled a knife on him as a means of defence and said 'you're not going to touch me again', and it then became a police matter. The police said what he did to me never should have happened."

The man, who was slightly older than Sarah, would turn to violence at every little thing she did 'wrong'. He became upset whenever she made a noise - putting the kettle on, watching the TV, you name it. It made her feel as though she had to walk on eggshells within her own home environment.

It's a feeling many can relate to, particularly women who have experienced domestic violence.

Trying to get away from this man, Sarah had to leave the residence for her safety. And as a result, she became homeless and found refuge in her small car.

"I went from having a home, to having no home. A warm bed, to having no warm bed. No toilet either. It left me in quite the panic. And at 72, I had no idea what to do," she tells Mamamia. 

As the days went on, Sarah would sleep in her car and stay with certain friends for a night here and there. She does have an adult son, but he was unable to help her with accommodation as he lives in a very small rented place.  

On one night she slept in her car on a church property. Another night she parked her car in a residential street feeling it was safest.


"I still feel really embarrassed about this all. I don't know how I would have coped mentally if it had gone on much longer. You can't just go and have a shower and clean your body, or brush your teeth. It was a horrible experience."

In Australia, the number of homeless women aged 55 years and over is increasing rapidly.

Many find themselves homeless after leading everyday lives in family caring roles, never previously needing specialist support services.


In one recent census, over 6,800 women aged 55 and over were homeless in Australia but the proportion of older women experiencing homelessness has continued to increase, with a rise of over 30 per cent in five years.

According to Mission Australia, there are a number of factors that can quickly drive older women into experiences of homelessness. These can include domestic violence and older women having less financial security in the form of less superannuation funds and a higher level of job insecurity. 

Currently, it's National Homelessness Week. Homelessness Australia CEO Kate Colvin says a surge in recent demand is making it harder to assist people confronting homelessness.

"A 7.5 per cent increase in demand in just four months is unheard of. It forces homelessness services to make extremely tough decisions about who gets assistance. We are looking at a funding shortfall of more than $450 million."

She adds: "The bulk of increased demand comes from women and children, many of whom are fleeing violence."

Fortunately for Sarah, she managed recently to get in contact with Mission Australia, via the police, where she met her case worker.

Today she has moved into her forever home - something she is extremely grateful for.

"My case worker helped me fill out all the forms, and find accommodation that I can afford financially long term," she says.


"I'm emotionally and physically exhausted from moving today, and I've got stuff all around me unsorted. But I feel safe. And I look forward to settling into this place in the next few days. My body has certainly taken a beating though, and my voice is still quivering a bit because of all that's happened."

Sarah worries what would have happened if she hadn't been able to access this necessary support.

She also wonders about other women, families and people out there who are in need. She hates to think what her life would currently look like if she had stayed at that share house, or stayed in her car.

Now, she's looking towards the next chapter - one where she feels safe and secure.

"I'm so grateful. You've got absolutely no idea. I just can't there's no words to express it. I just couldn't believe it, I still can't believe it. It was very frightening and I wouldn't wish it on anybody."

*Sarah's name has been changed for privacy reasons. Her identity is known to Mamamia. 

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness, help is available via Mission AustraliaHomelessness Australia, or your state or territory's service register. 

Feature Image: Getty.