Only three percent of rentals in Australia are considered affordable for a couple living on the aged pension, a new report reveals.
The Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot National Report shows a growing number of elderly Australians are stuck in expensive and insecure rentals.
For many, paying the rent means they can not afford to eat decent food, fill a prescription, pay for transport, or buy clothes.
For others battling to secure housing, the car, a friend's sofa, a homelessness service, or even a tent in a squat can become a home.
Bryan Lipmann, chief executive and founder of elderly housing not-for-profit Wintringham, said it had become a national disgrace so many people at the end of their lives were living in poverty and unable to find housing.
It is hard to watch kids homeless but it is much harder to watch elderly people that are old and sick.Bryan Lipmann, Wintringham
Mr Lipmann said there were currently 2000 people over 50 in Victoria on the organisation's waiting list for housing and care support.
"There are people who have been sick, who go to hospital and have no where to go when they come out of hospital," he said.
"I was with a woman recently who has cancer and is dying. When she was released from hospital she had no where to live.
"We have had people who are living in cars, people who are living with their kids going from house to house, room to room until one kid finally says 'you have to move mum'. There are endless stories."
Mr Lipmann founded Wintringham 30 years ago after seeing homeless elderly people were not able to access aged care services during his work at a night shelter in Melbourne.
He said the number of elderly people who are homeless was now staggering.
"When I started Wintringham a lot of the elderly homeless were traditional homeless considered 'street people'," he said.
"Now there are huge numbers of people who have been ordinary people, who have had jobs, raised families and now, whether because of an illness or a death or being retrenched they can longer afford their rent."
Wintringham manages 600 housing units and six aged care facilities statewide, including around 10 housing units in Ballarat.
Warrick Davison, coordinator of housing and homelessness at Uniting Ballarat, said elderly people often present to the organisation's housing services after changed circumstances make their rentals unaffordable.
Mr Lipmann said few houses were affordable for people living on the Aged Pension, meaning many were being forced to spend up to 70 per cent of their pension on rental payments.
The Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot shows 554 properties across Australia were affordable for a single person on the Aged Pension out of a total 69,000 properties on a single day in March.
In regional Victoria, 9 per cent of properties are considered suitable for couples on the aged pension. In metropolitan Melbourne that figure is 0.6 per cent.
This issue is going to need a lot of spending on housing over a long period of time.Bryan Lipmann, Wintringham
Mr Lipmann said the crisis was a result of 30 to 40 years of little government money spent on housing.
"This issue is going to need a lot of spending on housing over a long period of time," he said.
"The Aged Pension can always be higher, but it is really about the lack of supply.
"If there aren't enough units you are all competing for the same product.
"It is like going into the supermarket - if the whole district wants eggs and there are only 10 dozen eggs there they are not going to last long. It doesn't matter if they are cheaper or more expensive or you give the person more money or less money, the end result is people are going to go home without any eggs.
"It is the same with housing. There is just not enough housing.
"I think it is hard to watch kids homeless but it is much harder to watch elderly people that are old and sick.
"We can do better as a country."